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Exercise Strengthens Maritime Partnerships With North Africa

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2007 – Phoenix Express, a two-weeklong exercise designed to strengthen U.S. and European maritime partnerships with North Africa, began today in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

Eleven nations will conduct multilateral training to increase regional maritime awareness and improve maritime security and safety, U.S. Naval Forces Europe officials said.

A comprehensive agenda that includes maritime interdiction operations, search-and-rescue training, division tactics and medical practices will allow armed forces from Algeria, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States to enhance maritime and air capabilities, officials said. The series of challenging training scenarios is focused on developing the individual and collective maritime proficiencies of participating nations, as well as promoting friendship, mutual understanding and cooperation.

"Strengthening regional maritime partnerships allows us to address potential conflicts before they start, and awareness is the first step," said Navy Rear Adm. Jeff Fowler, U.S. 6th Fleet deputy commander. "We are committed to enhancing the awareness and maritime capability of our North African partners to help create an environment that is inhospitable to maritime criminals, extremists and terrorists."

USS Nassau and USS Kauffman, both home ported in Norfolk, Va., will participate with Marines based in Rota, Spain, and Patrol Squadron 5 air assets based in Sigonella, Italy. The Military Sealift Command fleet oiler USNS Patuxent also will provide valuable training during this annual exercise.

"This is an outstanding opportunity for Nassau and crew to build on unit-level training and increase our combat readiness in a multinational environment," said Navy Capt. John Roberti, Nassau commanding officer. "We are looking forward to operating with our regional partners."

Exercise Phoenix Express 2007 will take place between today and April 24 primarily in Rota and the Gulf of Cadiz.

(From a U.S. Naval Forces Europe-6th Fleet Public Affairs news release.)

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