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Exercise Phoenix Express Helps Build Relationships and Cooperation
SOUDA BAY, Greece - Phoenix Express 2016 is a multi-national exercise that took place from 17-27 May. This was the 10th year of the exercise and 11 countries participated from North Africa, Europe, and the U.S.
A Combined Maritime Operations Center (CMOC) was where fourteen naval officers from nine different countries formed a coalition to manage the at-sea operations portion of the exercise.
The CMOC was tasked to monitor sea based illicit activity scenarios that were simulated to real world operations, said Cmdr. David Blair, CMOC assessor. Blair explained how the CMOC structure consisted of the Director, Battle Watch Captain, intelligence watch officer, and current and future watch-standers.
“I operate as the team manager,” said Tunisian Capt. Jamel Ben Omrane, CMOC director. Omrane went on to say, we received information from the Exercise Control Group (ECG) and directed coordination and information sharing between the land and sea assets for the exercise scenario.
“My job here is to prepare what we have to do for tomorrow,” said Mauritania Lt. j.g. Abderrahmame Ebdemel, CMOC future operations planner. Ebdemel also explained how he coordinated the situation with everybody in the CMOC and the ships out in the operational area to prepare for the next day of events.
A primary objective of the exercise was to reciprocate information sharing practices. The CMOC transmited information through a chat line that informs them of what ships were involved in illicit activity scenarios.
“The CMOC then tasks the surface action group (SAG) to locate, hail, and board the suspect vessels that are involved in illicit activity,” said Blair. Blair explained how the scenarios consist of visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS), drug smuggling, medical combat response, and illicit trafficking.
“It’s my opinion that we don’t have any other choice but to work together because we share the international waters, said Omrane. “We need to cooperate, work together, and share information to keep this area free and safe for everyone.”
“I think the main purpose of this exercise to make strong friendships and better cooperation from the different navies,” Ebdemel said.
The scenarios were designed to help build information sharing techniques between the different nations navies with the ability to cooperate in a joint environment where no one nation has singular authority.
“The best part of participating in Phoenix Express is having the opportunity to see how participants from other countries interact and respond to the scenarios we prepared for them,” Blair said.
The exercise served to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices and operational capabilities to enhance efforts to achieve safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.