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NEWS | June 14, 2024

Navy EOD flexes expeditionary capabilities alongside NATO Allies at BALTOPS 2024

By Lt. Chelsea Cannaday, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 Public Affairs

Elements of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Units (EODMU) 2, 8, and 12 are operating with NATO allies and partners in one of the largest Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) exercises to date, June 7-20, 2024. This collaborative exercise aims to hone the skills necessary to operate seamlessly in a joint maritime environment and provides a unique training opportunity to strengthen the combined response capability critical to preserving freedom of navigation and security in the Baltic Sea.

Exercise scenarios for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) units include clearing mines, eliminating explosive threats, operating unmanned vehicles and conducting diving and salvage.

BALTOPS 24 brings the largest assembled coalition of amphibious and mine countermeasure forces in BALTOPS history.

Participating nations include Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

U.S. Navy EOD forces are working together with Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Norway.

“We are privileged to integrate with the Belgian, Dutch, French, and Norwegian navies at BALTOPS 24,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kristen Fekete, executive officer of EODMU 12. “With our shared mission of neutralizing explosive threats, multinational operations such as these convey regional reassurance and adversarial deterrence.” 

BALTOPS remains an alliance proving ground and is vital for honing the leading edge of combined interoperability, with Navy EOD playing a key role in mine countermeasures, unmanned surface vehicle operations, and integrated maritime and air operations. 

While the exercise is led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and U.S. Sixth Fleet (NAVEUR-NAVAF/SIXTHFLT), Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, headquartered in Oeiras, Portugal, has command and control of the exercise. 

For U.S. Navy EOD’s role in the exercise, EODMU 12 runs a dedicated command and control (C2) element headquartered in Putlos, Germany, where EOD teams communicate with the tactical operation center before, during, and after each mission.

While EODMU 12 has tactical control of the EOD components for the U.S., Belgian, Dutch, French, and Norwegian navies, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) Mine Countermeasure Technical Division (MCMTD) leads the overall MCM combined task group and directs seven subordinate task units, including EOD’s operations, in support of BALTOPS.

As an exercise, BALTOPS continually adapts to the dynamic security environment. EOD’s involvement this year highlights an increased focus on expeditionary mine countermeasures and command and control.

“While mine countermeasures has been a central part of the BALTOPS exercise for decades, we are continuously looking for opportunities to increase its involvement and to experiment with different capabilities,” said Capt. Scott Hattaway, vice commander, mine warfare battle staff. “This year’s expeditionary mine countermeasures (ExMCM) contingent is the largest so far, combining the typical EOD/diver and unmanned underwater vehicle personnel with a command task unit to better support command and control over a complex water space.”

Aviation and surface assets are working together with EOD for a robust, multiplatform mine countermeasure approach.

“This is the first time we’ve brought the full detect-to-engage package for a BALTOPS exercise. We are flexing this capability by incorporating new technologies, as well as an MCM capable MH-60S detachment, to support their operations,” continued Hattaway.

In addition to refining tactical proficiency, BALTOPS provides an excellent platform for enhancing existing partnerships and fostering new ones. Naval personnel from different countries get the opportunity to work together, exchange knowledge, and build close relationships that are crucial for future collaboration.  

“Working together with EOD allies is valuable because we all have the same tasks, but we accomplish it in different ways. Our main goal is the same – the threat has to be gone. Seeing how different teams approach the same problem with different solutions, you learn small things that you can take back to your own teams to be stronger,” said Sergeant Major Ben Coolen, team leader for the Netherlands Maritime EOD.

Coolen elaborated on the training opportunities shared by the U.S. and Dutch EOD teams at BALTOPS 24.

“In the Netherlands, we never use a helicopter for a drifting mine procedure. Tomorrow, we are going to do that together; that will be a unique learning experience. Next week, we are moving into the tactical phase of the exercise, and we hope to approach some tasks together with the new knowledge we’ve gained,” said Coolen.

Naval strength is vital to achieving maritime security, which is an essential component for regional stability and a thriving economy. The Baltic Sea remains a critical artery of commerce, with up to 15% of the world’s cargo transiting the region. 

U.S. Navy EOD clears explosive hazards to provide access to denied areas, employs advanced tactics and technologies to exploit and secure the undersea domain for freedom of maneuver, builds and fosters relationships with trusted partners, and protects the nation. As Navy EOD develops new capabilities, force structure, and tactics, our force remains dedicated to sharing capabilities and information on combating explosive threats with our allies and partners to ensure regional stability. 

Navy Divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 (MDSU 2), a subordinate command of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 (EODGRU 2), are also participating in BALTOPS 2024. Operating out of Liepaja, Latvia, they are conducting underwater cutting and welding training, as well as diving and salvage operations, with Latvian Navy Divers.

Navy Divers can perform underwater salvage, repair and maintenance, submarine rescue and support operations for Navy special warfare teams and explosive ordnance disposal teams. Because of their similar skill sets and mission areas, Navy EOD use expeditionary divers attached to our mobile units and our mobile diving and salvage units to conduct underwater search and salvage, port clearance, and hyperbaric chamber operations. 

Other Navy Expeditionary Combat Command units participating in BALTOPS include: EOD Expeditionary Support Unit (EODESU) 2, headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia; Commander Task Force (CTF) 68, headquartered in Rota, Spain; and Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11, headquartered in Gulfport, Mississippi. 

BALTOPS 24 is the premier maritime focused military exercise in the Baltic Region. The exercise, led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, and executed by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, provides a unique training opportunity to strengthen combined response capabilities critical to preserving freedom of navigation and security in the Baltic Sea.

BALTOPS 24 is also part of the U.S. Department of Defense exercise series, Large Scale Global Exercise (LSGE). LSGE is an umbrella term that incorporates several exercises and military activities, which enable the U.S. Joint Force to train with Allies and partners and improve shared understanding, trust and interoperability on security challenges across the globe.

Details of BALTOPS activities and imagery are available at http://www.c6f.navy.mil. Media interested in covering the exercise should contact the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Public Affairs Office at mail to: cne_cna_c6fpao@us.navy.mil

For the full collection of photos from BALTOPS 2024, and news about U.S. Navy EOD and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two, visit https://www.dvidshub.net/unit/EODG-2.