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Service members from 16 nations conclude Sea Breeze 2017

July 25, 2017 at 12:23 PM UTC
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

ODESSA, Ukraine (July 22, 2017) Service members from the 16 nations involved in exercise Sea Breeze 2017 assembled twice on July 22 to mark the conclusion of the 17th iteration of the exercise.

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Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukrainian co-hosted multinational maritime exercise held annually in the Black Sea to enhance the interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security in the region.

Members of the land component, who made up one-third of the nearly 3,000 participants in Sea Breeze this year, were recognized in the morning at Shirokyi Lan, a vast training installation about two hours northeast of Odessa, Ukraine. Maritime component and air component members were recognized in the afternoon at the Odessa Officers’ Club, near the exercise headquarters on Ukraine's Western Naval Base.

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In Odessa, Vice Adm. Ihor Voronchenko, commander of the Ukrainian navy, described the deliberate application of NATO standards to Sea Breeze 2017 as a great step forward.

“I hope that all of our foreign colleagues and friends who participated in the exercise did have a chance to familiarize themselves with Ukrainian national culture, which is based on European values,” Voronchenko said. “From our side, we will do as much as we can, as fast as possible, to be interoperable with our joint European family.”

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Other speakers were Capt. Matthew Lehman, the deputy commander of U.S. 6th Fleet's Task Force 65/Destroyer Squadron 60 and the officer in tactical command of U.S. forces in the exercise; Capt. Oleksii Neizhpapa, the Ukrainian exercise director; and Serhii Kaliboshin, the deputy governor of Odessa province.

Lehman noted a number of U.S. firsts in the exercise, including participation by CV-22 Ospreys and special operations forces, simultaneous participation by two U.S. surface combatants and the basing of a P-8 Poseidon in Ukraine. He also noted the multinational force's successes during the free-play phase of Sea Breeze, including rescuing a notional hostage, defeating a notional enemy submarine and intercepting a vessel smuggling notional nuclear materials across the Black Sea.

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With so many nations involved, establishing clear command and control of such operations took extra effort, but the outcome was worth it, Lehman said.

“We are smarter and stronger together,” he said. “We become even smarter and stronger every time we do this.”

Although Sea Breeze 2017 has ended, U.S. forces will continue to operate routinely in the Black Sea and will take every opportunity to train on a regular basis with partners and allies in the region, he said.

Neizhpapa quoted the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who said a strong army needs three things: people, money and time.

“I can add one more thing from my personal perspective,” Neizhpapa said. “Friends.”

With the support of its friends, Ukraine is bringing stability to the Black Sea region and to its own shores, he said.

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