THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA, North African nations’ territorial waters -- The ship’s crew aboard the Italian Offshore Patrol Vessel Cigala Fulgosi P490 begins making preparations for a simulated maritime interdiction operation (MIO).
Today, Italian Marines from the Brigata Marina San Marco 2nd Regiment stationed out of Brindis, Italy will be boarding the Algerian Warship Kalaat Beni-Abbes P474. This will be the crew’s eighth time at sea MIO training in the last four days.
It’s all part of Exercise Phoenix Express, one of three U.S. Africa Command-sponsored regional Express series maritime exercises facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and U.S. 6th Fleet.
The tenth iteration of Exercise Phoenix Express serves to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities to enhance efforts to achieve safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.
These types of exercises provide an opportunity for North African, European, and U.S. nations to work side-by-side in order to better synchronize responses to potential real world scenarios.
Even for the more experienced visit, board, search, and seizure boarding team members like Italian Seargent Major Lorenzo Gisotti, the training was beneficial.
“It’s a great experience,” said Gisotti. “This type of training helps us share tactics with other countries and gives us the opportunity to learn from each other.”
Gisotti has been in the Italian Marines for over 21 years. He began working on security teams in the Horn of Africa while conducting anti-piracy operations during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002.
As the Italian boarding team leader, Gisotti not only led his team during the majority of the MIO scenarios, but also gave feedback to other nations’ boarding teams.
Gisotti went on to say that even if they could have this type of training twice a year it would be beneficial because it would give everyone an opportunity to train in less than favorable weather conditions and sea states.
Not only did the Italian Marines from Brigata Marina San Marco 2nd Regiment benefit from Phoenix Express, but others on board the vessel including Italian Cmdr. Laghezza Francesco.
Cmdr. Francesco is the Commanding Officer of the Cigala Fulgosi and was involved in every scenario that his ship was involved in.
“Being a part of Phoenix Express was a great opportunity for me and my crew to train, to cooperate, and enhance mutual knowledge and integration in such important matters like maritime operations and law enforcement at sea,” Francesco said.
For Francesco, having an opportunity for Mediterranean Navies to promote mutual understanding and strengthen maritime partnerships is very important.
“Cooperation enforces maritime security and friendships among crews,” said Francesco. “We know all the crews better than before we started the exercise. We had many possibilities to meet each other, to speak, and exchange professionalism.”
With more than 24 years of naval service, Francesco is familiar with many of the issues Mediterranean navies face in this day in age. Phoenix Express helped him and his crew faces those challenges.
“All of the scenarios we played here were well planned and very close to those illegal trafficking issues the Mediterranean navies have to face at sea during their operational deployments,” said Francesco. “Exercise Phoenix Express helped me and my crew learn more and more how to face these stressors smoothly and most important is gave us the possibility to share knowledge of these security issues with our Mediterranean neighbors.”
Participants in Phoenix Express 2016 include Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States.