A Fond Farewell to IMCMEX

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Greetings Readers. As the end of International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2013 has past, and exercise staffs have turned in their reviews of what went wrong and what went right, it’s time to reflect on what the exercise accomplished.

8779354149_53ea5cacbe_zThough ships operated in fewer geographical areas this year, international forces operated in more locations performing a wider variety of missions. Although IMCMEX 12 set a tough standard–more than 30 nations, three widely disparate operating areas–a new year rose to the challenge by widening our objectives and perspectives.

As we have said on multiple occasions, 13 brings us industry participation with very large crude carriers, an increased number of patrol coastal ships from many nations to support infrastructure protection and maritime security operations for naval forces, industry shipping, and at-sea oil terminals involved in exercise events.

8785831850_e72cab684a_zA relative footnote on the serial list, but a major undertaking none the less, were the two casualty drills. As a Navy, we drill medical readiness and responses regularly to ensure that trained personnel are prepared to respond with life-saving speed and expertise. IMCMEX 13 included a seriously cool mass casualty drill where a simulated mine attack on a commercial ship caused extensive damage where mariners were severely injured and needed evacuation to a medical facility. The closest stabilizing facilities were aboard RFA Cardigan Bay and USS Ponce. The cool part comes in where the simulated wounded were made-up to be gruesome in accordance to their simulated injuries.

Any time international navies meet, techniques are developed, best practices are learned, and knowledge is broadened for the betterment of the international community. In this case, it is truly important we take these lesson and continue to apply them to future exercises. Because, it is not one country who benefits from mine countermeasure, maritime security and infrastructure protection proficiency, but all of them. All rely on sea-going commerce after all.

8764812494_1332e2ba31_zThis post isn’t intended to be a re-cap of the exercise, we’ve done that, I’m here to bid a fond farewell to an exciting, complex exercise that embraced a myriad of separate events and knitted them together in a quilt of participation and expertise. Sure, a RHIB broke down here, some computers had trouble syncing up, and some events didn’t get finished due to environmental and safety concerns; but these lessons are the thread that stitches this year’s exercise with future iterations of International Mine Countermeasures Exercise.

So long, biggest little exercise in the world, we’ll see you next time.

-Fleet LT

In the Shallows: Patrol Coastal Pride

27FEB2013 (52)130508-N-PK218-109Why focus on Patrol Coastal ships again? They’re an important part of protecting shipping while in transit, and protecting infrastructure at sea and in the shallows. To further emphasise this, Fleet Forces recently announced that 2 additional PCs will be sent to operate with Manama, Bahrain as their forward deployed home along with a maintenance support team.

The at-sea portion of IMCMEX 13 is just past its center point and PCs have played key roles. Here to talk about what they are contributing to the exercise is Capt. Stephen Evans, commander of Destroyer Squadron 50.

-Fleet LT

120620-N-WB378-044Over 40 nations have joined us here to participate in a wide spectrum of operations designed to protect the routes of international commerce and trade. IMCMEX is a defensive exercise that focuses on keeping vital sea lanes open so the world economy is not affected by acts of terrorism or criminal activity. A stable world economy is dependent upon the unencumbered movement of food, consumer goods, raw materials and energy products through the Arabian Gulf and its associated chokepoints. To ensure these goods continue to freely move through this region, the global community must work together not only during exercises but everyday to keep the sea lanes open.

While Mine Countermeasure ships and divers from the navies of nations throughout the world conduct mine clearing operations other ships will be watching over them to keep them safe. The U.S. Navy patrol coastal ship (PC) sails on the frontline of this defense patrolling the waters of the Arabian Gulf and working with both Gulf Region States and coalition allies performing Maritime Security Operations (MSO) and Maritime Infrastructure Protection (MIP). The PCs are perfectly suited for the complex waters of the Arabian Gulf, where over 80% of operations are in water less than 39 feet, the shallow draft alone gives these ships an edge in the region. Fast and agile with punching power, they have a distinct advantage making them a vital part of operations like Mine Countermeasure Defense.

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As multi-mission ships, the Patrol Coastal ships offer a reliable platform that is flexible in operations and an invaluable force multiplier. While they won’t sit center stage during the IMCMEX, they are a key component to it’s safe and successful execution. I have been proud to watch these small ships shine.

-Capt. Stephen Evans, Commodore of Destroyer Squadron 50

The Benefit of Big Meetings: MIPS

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Meetings are designed to share information. Whether its superior to subordinate to give direction and orders, subordinate to superior to upload finished tasks or issues to the higher eschelon brain space, or even to generate a communal thought through brainstorming and collaboration; these are all part of an information exchange process that has occured since earliest life developed ways to communicate and work together.

dispersants7Big meetings, like those between corporations, agencies and militaries are no different. At their base level, they are an information exchange, but on a massive scale. True, these types of gatherings tend toward the brainstorm and communal thought area of exchange, but that is a great thing when it comes to military and inter-agency meetings. Sharing best practices, techniques, and technology for endeavors like Maritime Infrastructure Protection leads to a general increase of knowledge and ability across assembled participants.

While world militaries are not best known for sharing, for concerns like piracy and Infrastructure Protection; a coordinated, multinational response is vital to protect commercial and military assets from threats in the maritime environment. This need for cooperation and coordination are what drive gatherings such as the Maritime Infrastructure Protection Symposium (MIPS).

mmsThis year marks the sixth MIPS here in Bahrain, and this year 130 participants from 41 countries and multiple industry’s attended from 13 – 15 May, as part of International Mine Countermeasures Exercise. Information, best practices and technology were shared via presentations, static displays and expert panels. Presentations included Liquid Natural Gas Shipping and Safety Concerns, unmanned underwater vehicle developments, Cyber Threats to Maritime Infrastructure, Law of Naval Mining, Marine Mammal Systems, and Oil Spill Response: Security Considerations and Overview of International Response Systems to name a few.

AXR_0816The panel of senior leaders included Vice Adm. John Miller, commander, Naval Surface Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime forces; 2 GCC navy officials and 2 representatives of industry participants. They primarily discussed the importance of maritime cooperation at sea; oil spill response and threats to energy carriers; and information exchange between military, agency and industry partners to enhance the effectiveness and timliness of coordinated efforts.

AXR_0601While no physical forces were moved, no rounds fired, and little money spent; Symposiums and large-scale meetings bring to light national and international concerns, act as a venue for adressing them, and pave the way for solving them should concerns become a reality.

Meetings don’t have to be tedious or boring. When the international community meets to discuss security concerns, they certainly have my interest.

-Fleet LT