By Lt. Justin Palmer
Military Sealift Command Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport USNS Trenton (T-EPF 5) and Tunisian Navy Fast Patrol Boats Hamilcar (505) and Giscon (510), as well as Auxiliary Ships Zarzis (A710) and Taguermess, conducted joint maritime domain awareness operations to enhance maritime security and Tunisia's ability to protect its maritime borders, June 28 - July 2, 2021.
"Any time we can strengthen our relations and the maritime force of a partner nation is time well spent," said Cmdr. T.J. Seifert, officer in charge military of the detachment aboard Trenton. "This exercise provided both nations vital and valuable interoperability training of our capabilities during at-sea maritime interdiction operations and maritime domain awareness greatly increasing Tunisia’s ability to protect their maritime border."
The series of naval exercises with the Tunisian Navy, which built on earlier exercises with USNS Trenton in January, focused on developing both nations’ ability to conduct maritime security operations in the Mediterranean, further enhancing cooperation between U.S. and Tunisian forces in support of shared security goals.
"This exercise was a great demonstration of how civilian and uniformed personnel can work alongside each other to conduct bilateral operations," said Capt. Matthew Salas, Ship’s Master, USNS Trenton. "Through collaboration with the Tunisian Navy, we’re taking the right steps forward to enhance security in their heavily-traveled waters."
Demonstrating a shared commitment to enhance critical lifesaving capabilities in a COVID-19 degraded environment, all missions were conducted with respect for protocols protecting both U.S. and Tunisian forces against the spread of the virus.
In May, the Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) conducted joint maritime operations with the Tunisian Navy during the at-sea portion of exercise Phoenix Express. The at-sea portion of the exercise tested 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.
Exercise Phoenix Express is one of three regional maritime exercises executed by Naval Forces Africa as part of a comprehensive strategy to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners that addresses maritime security concerns.
Military Sealift Command operates approximately 125 naval auxiliary civilian-crewed ships, replenishes U.S. Navy ships, strategically prepositions combat cargo at sea, and moves military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners around the world.
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth 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 and security and stability in Europe and Africa.