Maritime forces from Europe, North Africa, and the United States began the 15th iteration of the multinational maritime exercise Phoenix Express 2019, with an opening ceremony held at the Royal Moroccan Naval Simulation and Training Center on 29 March.
Phoenix Express, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet (CNE-CNA/C6F), is designed to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities in order to enhance efforts to promote safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa said.
“Africa’s current security challenges are some of the most diverse in the world, ranging from insurgencies, armed conflicts, illicit trafficking, and illegal fisheries,” said Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier, U.S. Army Africa Commanding General. “That’s why we must train as we fight, and as a joint coalition force. It’s through continuing military cooperation and collaboration that we meet our goals of a secure, stable maritime environment around the African continent that brings peace, security, encourages commerce and increased prosperity for all nations.”
This year’s exercise control group is hosted by Morocco, with training taking place throughout the Mediterranean Sea, to include territorial waters of North African nations. The at-sea portion of the exercise will test North African, European, and U.S. maritime forces’ abilities to respond to irregular migration and combat illicit trafficking and the movement of illegal goods and materials.
“Past iterations of Phoenix Express have proved that regional cooperation is the best way to face these threats and issues,” said Capt. Zahir, a Moroccan representative from the office of Chief of Operations. “Naval cooperation is increasingly seen as one of the most useful means for countries to manage regional security issues, not only because maritime issues may affect a number of countries, but also because some threats are beyond the scope of one country to manage.”
A new addition to this year’s training is the in-port exercise (PORTEX), which will test the participating law enforcement agencies’ ability to take follow-on interagency actions to prosecute illegal actors under the appropriate countries’ rule of law.
“This years PORTEX, hosted by the Royal Moroccan Navy, the Gendarmerie Royal and the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency Proliferation Security Initiative Support Cell, is the first of its kind,” said Capt. William Pennington, Commander Task Force 67. “Exercises like PORTEX really gives us and our partner nations a great opportunity to expand on our joint, interagency maritime security operations and demonstrates our shared determination to protect the waterways critical to every nation.”
The in-port training also included a public affairs workshop that offered participants lessons in composition techniques, camera operations, and provided senior leaders strategies to effectively communicate with audiences through visual information.
“The addition of the public affairs workshop is very important to us,” said Royal Moroccan Navy Capt. Mohammed Chaouni. “It is important that our military have the requisite skills to promote national and regional exercises; and that begins with public affairs.”
“It is also important our nations continue to assess the link between Phoenix Express and African Lion,” said Chaouni. “That requires us to assign exercise planning officers who can ensure, through precise coordination and careful planning, that our combined efforts will result in complimentary exercise objectives.”
Nations scheduled to participate in Phoenix Express 2019 include Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Netherlands, Spain, Tunisia, United Kingdom and the United States.
Exercise Phoenix Express is one of three CNE-CNA/C6F-facilitated regional exercises part of a comprehensive strategy to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners that addresses maritime security concerns.