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Cutlass Express Boosts Maritime Interoperability in East Africa

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2013 – A maritime exercise underway in East Africa is helping regional partners build capability and an ability to work together to better confront piracy, illegal fishing and other transnational challenges, reported Navy Capt. Guy Jackson, the exercise director.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Navy Chief Petty Officer Charles H. Johnson guides a practice illegal fishing scenario during the preparatory phase of Cutlass Express 2013 on a Seychelles Coast Guard base, Nov. 8, 2013. U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Luis R. Chavez Jr.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Cutlass Express 2013 kicked off yesterday, with the maritime forces of 13 nations and several international organizations participating in the week-long exercise, Jackson told American Forces Press Service during a telephone interview from Seychelles.

The exercise is in its third year, one of four Africa-focused regional “Express” series exercises led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe and U.S. 6th Fleet and in support of U.S. Africa Command’s theater engagement.

All are part of Africom’s efforts to improve the quality of military-to-military engagements across the African continent and help African partners increase their capacity to provide their own security.

Last month during a virtual news conference, Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the Africom commander, reported “major progress” in maritime security along Africa’s East Coast, thanks largely to more robust multinational cooperation.

About 300 participants in Cutlass Express 2013 hope to build on that progress during operations at four naval hubs: Port Victoria, Seychelles; Mombasa, Kenya; Djibouti; and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Initially training in port, with a two-day at-sea phase to begin Nov. 14, they will focus on improving cooperation, tactical expertise and information-sharing practices, Jackson said.

The participants will exercise boarding procedures and techniques, medical casualty care, radio communication and information-sharing techniques during scenarios designed to mirror real-world operations to counter piracy and illicit trafficking, as well as actions to deter illegal fishing, Jackson said.

The training has become increasingly advanced each year since the first Cutlass Express exercise in 2011, which focused primarily on partnership building, he said. “Now we are moving forward with more formalized training and with more resources around the exercise and scenario development,” he said. “So it is becoming more sophisticated, with a goal of getting the teams better trained.”

One of the big challenges, Jackson explained, will be to ensure seamless operations among the four maritime operating centers involved in the exercise. “We want to make sure there is a good handoff across those areas, because illegal fishing and piracy can move very fluidly across those areas,” he said. “So we really want to make sure we have helped to enhance the coordination, cooperation and interoperability in that area.”

Following the “underway” portion of the exercise, the participants will spend a day assessing the operations and identifying lessons learned that can be applied to future operations.

“For me, this is about sharing best practices and enhancing interoperability,” Jackson said. “There are a lot of great skills out here, and we are seeing some very well-qualified folks working to help bring everyone to the same level of expertise. That ensures we are stronger as one team, able to work together across each of the locations.”

Speaking during an opening ceremony yesterday in Seychelles, Jackson described the impact of exercises such as Cutlass Express 2013 on regional security.

“We want to continue to make the waters off East Africa a safer place, and that’s what you’re here to do,” he told participants. “Cutlass Express is designed to enhance maritime security capabilities, improve information sharing and strengthen the bonds of each and every participating nation, so we can all work together for the long term.”

Participants in Cutlass Express 2013 hail from Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Seychelles, Mauritius, Mozambique, Tanzania, Comoros, Yemen, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United States. The exercise also includes representatives from the Eastern Africa Standby Force, NATO and the European Union Naval Force.

(Follow Donna Miles on Twitter: @MilesAFPS)


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Related Sites:
U.S. Africa Command
Special Report: U.S. Africa Command
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, U.S. 6th Fleet

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