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International Unit Serves Critical Role in Persian Gulf

Nov. 25, 2019 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

The International Maritime Security Construct would look more appropriate in the mountains of Eastern Afghanistan or the deserts of Iraq than at the Navy Support Activity in Bahrain.

Army officer speaks with civilian reporter in tent.
Headquarters Briefing
Army Col. John Conklin, the chief of staff of the International Maritime Security Construct, explains how the headquarters of the organization is set up to Washington Post reporter Missy Ryan, third from right, Nov. 25, 2019. The unit, based in Bahrain, looks to make the sea lanes of the Persian Gulf safe.
Photo By: Jim Garamone, DOD
VIRIN: 191125-D-FN314-003

While it is air conditioned and has a floor, it is in a tent that U.S. service members around the world would relate to.

The tent is the headquarters of Operation Sentinel – an effort to ensure the security and safe transit of ships through the Persian Gulf.

The headquarters is in a tent because of how quickly the international unit formed and because of the need to quickly expand the space as more nations join the effort.

Sailors film general meeting ship crew.
Sirocco Meeting
Army Gen. Mark Milley, center left, meets with the crew of the USS Sirocco at the Bahrain Naval Activity on the shores of the Persian Gulf, Nov. 25, 2019. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited the patrol boat to meet with the U.S. sailors that are doing some of the hard work of the International Maritime Security Construct.
Photo By: Jim Garamone, DOD
VIRIN: 191125-D-FN314-001

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with some members of the headquarters of the construct and the crew of the USS Sirocco – a Navy patrol boat that does the tough work on the high seas to ensure maritime safety.

The tent is right outside the headquarters for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, and while American service members form the nucleus around which the unit has grown, it is a truly international organization. 

Sailors look at approaching storm.
Approaching Storm
Sailors keep a watchful eye on an approaching storm at the Bahrain Naval Activity, Nov. 25, 2019. The crew of the USS Sirocco hosted Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as he was briefed on progress in establishing the International Maritime Security Construct designed to protect the sea lanes of the Persian Gulf.
Photo By: j Jim Garamone, DOD
VIRIN: 191125-D-FN314-004

"More than 60 percent of the unit is not American," Army Col. John Conklin, the construct's chief of staff. "There are seven nations involved with the effort now and more are joining."

The IMSC – as it is universally called -- began in July after attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf aimed at restricting passage of oil and natural gas through the strategic waterway. 

More than 17,000 ships per year transit through the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait carrying oil and natural gas. Closing that waterway would have international repercussions – affecting economies from the United Kingdom to Japan and all points in between.

Officer in blue uniform speaks to civilians in a tent.
Officer Explanation
A Bahrani naval officer explains how the headquarters of the International Maritime Security Construct works to reporters traveling with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley to Bahrain, Nov. 25, 2019.
Photo By: Jim Garamone, DOD
VIRIN: 191125-D-FN314-002D

The seven nations involved now are Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. Conklin said Qatar and Kuwait will soon join the construct, and Canada and some European countries have also expressed  interest in the effort. 

Conklin said the operation has four sentry ships in crucial watch points in the Persian Gulf. "These are generally destroyers or large frigates," he said.