Sailors of a Dozen Nations Wrap Up Baltic Exer­cis­es

Größere Kar­te­nan­sicht

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2009 — After 11 days of sea tri­als and more than 250 sep­a­rate events, a multi­na­tion­al naval exer­cise in the Baltic region is sched­uled to wrap up tomor­row.
The objec­tive for the 12 coun­tries par­tic­i­pat­ing in BALTOPS – short for “Baltic Oper­a­tions” — is to learn to work togeth­er and form new ideas for dis­as­ter relief and human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance, Navy Rear Adm. John Chris­ten­son, the mis­sion com­man­der, said yes­ter­day dur­ing a “DoDLive” blog­gers round­table.

You don’t know what the dis­as­ter is going to be, but what­ev­er it is, if you’ve worked togeth­er, com­mu­ni­cat­ed togeth­er and devel­oped con­fi­dence in each oth­er, it makes the response a lot eas­i­er and a lot more effi­cient,” he said.

Even though it’s an exer­cise, the events have sig­nif­i­cant impact, Chris­ten­son said.

One of the big val­ues here is we’ve been explod­ing World War II ord­nance all week,” he said. “Close to 100,000 mines were seed­ed in the Baltic Sea in World War II, and the mine coun­ter­mea­sure ships here have done a great job of find­ing both exer­cise tor­pe­does and mines, but also real-world mines.”

Find­ing the mines isn’t the only exam­ple of how the exer­cise has had a pos­i­tive effect on mariners. Using knowl­edge gained from BALTOPS’s annu­al ship-board­ing event, Swedish sailors cap­tured a pirate ship last year off the coast of Soma­lia, Chris­ten­son said.

While there are dif­fer­ences among the col­lab­o­rat­ing navies and how they han­dle sit­u­a­tions, the exer­cise allows them to come togeth­er and devel­op prob­lem-solv­ing skills, said Swedish navy Lt. Cmdr. Jor­gen Bergman, the Swedish liai­son offi­cer aboard the USS Mount Whit­ney.

When dif­fer­ent navies come togeth­er, usu­al­ly the first cou­ple of days are spent just being able to reach oth­er on var­i­ous fre­quen­cies and com­mu­ni­cate, and basic ship han­dling,” Chris­ten­son said. “We are all, in our hearts, sailors, but we do think dif­fer­ent ways. But this is the per­fect exer­cise to train togeth­er, do things togeth­er and devel­op our skills, to be team work­ers.”

The 37th annu­al exer­cise ends tomor­row in Kiel, Ger­many, with what Chris­ten­son said is the largest gath­er­ing of sail ves­sels in the world.

By Navy Pet­ty Offi­cer 3rd Class William Sel­by
Spe­cial to Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice (Navy Pet­ty Offi­cer 3rd Class William Sel­by serves in the Defense Media Activity’s emerg­ing media direc­torate.)