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NEWS | May 24, 2022

NCIS conducts biometrics and mission planning with North African partners

By Mass Communication Specialist Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Haggerty

Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) biometric operations specialists discussed mission planning between partner nations Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, as part of exercise Phoenix Express May 24-25, 2022.

Two representatives from the NCIS Technical Services Field Office brought portable biometric devices to demonstrate functionality, and the kinds of data they could gather, to support overall discussions on improving maritime interdiction operations.

“We’re here to brief the exercise participants about the biometric devices NCIS uses to collect data on foreign nationals at a number of locations,” said Ian Hernly, biometric operations specialists assigned to NCIS, Technical Services Field Office - Identity Activities branch, Headquarters Quantico, Virginia.

The importance of collecting biometric data during maritime interdictions ensures evidence collection practices are recognized in international maritime courts for follow-on prosecution. Some of the collection methods discussed during the exchange included using ink to take fingerprints, cameras for face photographs, and collecting personal biographic data.

Hernly stressed that participants should always have a collection method, or something they can use as a collection method, on hand. “(Whether it’s) having ink to take fingerprints, or a camera to capture face photos, you should be ready to take biographics,” he said. “They don't need the most advanced technology to be effective in the biometrics realm. It’s a challenge, but it’s something everyone is focused on.”

Robert Shelton, a biometric operations specialists assigned to the same office in Quantico, said the information exchange was a good experience with strong participation and interest from partner nations. Shelton and Hernly both reinforced collecting biometric data is essential to being effective in the field.

“The (participants) have been very receptive to the information,” Shelton said. “They’re very interested in the equipment as well as the practices the Navy incorporates into the maritime environment. From a cultural perspective, strong partnerships and friendships have really been built through this training and the exercise.”

The information exchange was conducted on the Tunisian NRF-class Khaireddine (A700) in Bizerte, Tunisia. Partner forces are participating in the 17th iteration of the North African maritime exercise Phoenix Express 22, taking place in Tunis, Tunisia, and throughout the Mediterranean Sea.

Phoenix Express is one of three NAVEUR-NAVAF-facilitated regional exercises as part of a comprehensive strategy to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners that addresses maritime security concerns.

For over 80 years, NAVEUR-NAVAF has forged strategic relationships with allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.

Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and USAFRICOM areas of responsibility.  U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.