Members of maritime forces from European, North African and U.S. Naval forces participated in a pre-sail conference kick-off for Exercise Phoenix Express 2014 (PE14) at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center (NMIOTC) in Souda Bay, May 21.
The U.S. Africa Command-sponsored exercise, now in its eighth year, is designed to improve cooperation and interdiction expertise among participating nations in order to increase maritime safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.
"This is a great opportunity for our nations to work together, build relationships and improve interoperability amongst our navies," said Rear Adm. Chris Sadler, director, Maritime Partnership Program, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, and vice commander, U.S. 6th Fleet.
Participants discussed the upcoming underway phase of Phoenix Express, meant to improve maritime domain awareness and interaction between forces afloat and the combined maritime operations center ashore.
Combined maritime forces will execute a series of training scenarios exercising force protection measures, boarding procedures, search and rescue, replenishment at sea, and helicopter operations.
"The end result of the exercise will be to improve maritime security and stability in the Mediterranean Sea and ensure we train like we fight and fight like we train," said Sadler.
PE14 is in the middle of its two-week in port phase, with underway operations in the central Mediterranean Sea scheduled to begin May 24 and end June 2.
"Promoting interoperability and cooperation among the coastal states, North Africa and South Europe, is the objective," said Hellenic navy Commodore Ioannis G. Pavlopoulos, Commandant of NMIOTC. "When we manage to establish constant communication between our states from both sides, I think the maritime trade will flow easier and more securely for the benefit of our states and the global security system."
Thus far, participants have gained various skills during the Maritime Interdiction Operations inport phase of Phoenix Express.
"The training at NMIOTC is excellent, and will help us deal with maritime issues in the future," said Lt. Col. Salem Alshwerif, a member of Libyan Armed Forces, who are participating in Phoenix Express for the first time.
Countries participating in Phoenix Express 2014 include Algeria, Croatia, Greece, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts a full range of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation missions in concert with coalition, joint, interagency, and other partners in order to advance security and stability in Europe and Africa.