By U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs
Commander, Task Force (CTF) 68 joined NATO, European Maritime Force (EUROMARFOR), and other multinational forces to participate in Spanish-led INVITEX Mine Countermeasures Exercise (ESP MINEX 19) in the Western Mediterranean Sea, April 29-May 10, 2019.
ESP MINEX 19, hosted by the Spanish Navy, is an advanced annual exercise for mine countermeasures units and surface, submarine, and air mining and force protection assets.
“[Explosive Ordnance Disposal] technicians from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Eight (EODMU8) have historically been the main U.S. Navy contribution to this exercise, but this year’s U.S. participation also included personnel from the newly established 6th Fleet Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Detachment from Naval Station Rota, Spain,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dan NeSmith, the detachment’s executive officer. “This was the first ESP MINEX to have U.S. Navy personnel integrated both as part of the Spanish-led Mine Force Task Group staff and as part of the German-led Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2) staff participating as a Task Unit. Additionally, an EODMU8 MCM platoon worked along-side other Spanish and Belgium forces under a separate Task Unit, executing diving operations to relocate, identify, and neutralize mines found by unmanned underwater vehicles.”
The exercise focused on sustaining MCM operations in a multi-threat environment and on improving cooperation and effectiveness of allied units and staffs conducting MCM operations in a crisis scenario. During the exercise, U.S. Navy personnel operated onboard four NATO vessels, including Spanish patrol vessel ESPS Tornado, Spanish minehunter ESPS Duero, German tender FGS Werra, and Spanish research ship ESPS Las Palmas.
“Sixteen nations and organizations are taking part in this exercise,” said Spanish Navy Capt. Rafael Arcos, commanding officer of the Spanish Mine Countermeasures Force and officer in tactical command of the exercise. “Interoperability combining all participating nations’ capabilities is the key, as a true exponent of force cohesion and ability to operate in a highly demanding and intense operational scenario demonstrated in ESP MINEX 19. This year, the air component, the force logistics, the combined international staff, and the complexity – including legal – of the scenario has a deeper footprint compared with previous series.”
Participants included 13 MCM vessels, multiple dive teams, and unmanned underwater vehicle systems from Spain, Germany, Turkey, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece, Belgium, and the United States. Staff augments and observers from Poland, Romania, Brazil, Sweden, and Algeria were also present for ESP MINEX 19.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests, security and stability in Europe and Africa.