ABOARD USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Enterprise (CVN 65) began the free play phase of MEDSHARK/Majestic Eagle '04 (MS/ME04) July 13, as the NATO-run exercise continues in the eastern Atlantic.
Enterprise, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), the Italian carrier ITS Garibaldi (C551), and the Spanish carrier SPS Principe De Asturias (R 11) are four of the 30 ships participating in the multinational exercise off the coast of Morocco.
"The Enterprise, Spanish, and Italian carrier groups will all work together to fight against our adversary, USS Harry S. Truman strike group," said Cmdr. Chuck Nygaard, Enterprise Carrier Strike Group surface operations officer. "Before now, everything was scripted. Now we will plan and work together to provide realistic training for all of us."
Ten nations are participating in MEDSHARK/Majestic Eagle '04 (MS/ME04), a joint maritime exercise that seeks to develop interoperability between the multinational forces involved, while at the same time building future military relationships. MS/ME04 began July 11, and after three days, officials say the exercise is right on track.
"Our highest priority is coalition action where we execute combat plans together as a common naval task force, and that has been a very big success," said Nygaard.
As a NATO exercise, MS/ME04 provides allied forces the opportunity to exercise NATO procedures and operations.
"The important thing to bear in mind is that NATO as an alliance needs to exercise its procedures at all times," said Strike Force NATO Deputy Commander British Royal Navy Rear Adm. Paul Boissier, during a July 12 visit to Enterprise. "What we're exercising here is an incredibly complex business. The joint operations of multinational forces are skills that have to be constantly refreshed."
While MS/ME04 provides enormous opportunities for challenging and realistic training, it also develops unity between the allied forces.
"We are building friendships," said Boissier. "We're seeing each other face to face. What that means is that at any stage in the future, whether we're within the context of NATO or within the context of coalition, we have the capabilities, experience and friendships that allow us to really get out there."
MS/ME04 has already been full of displays of multi-national unity. In the early morning hours of July 12, 18 of the 30 ships participating in MS/ME04 pulled into a close formation, representing allied forces from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom for a battle group photo.
"The ships were in a formation 300 yards apart and coordinated together flawlessly," said Nygaard. "Not only was it impressive but it also showed how we will operate together."
MS/ME04 is Enterprise's third multinational exercise as part of Summer Pulse '04, a demonstration of U.S. capability to deploy multiple carrier strike groups and operate jointly with allies in accordance with the Fleet Response Plan (FRP).
"The FRP is one of the lessons learned when we came out of Operation Iraqi Freedom," said Strike NATO and U.S. 6th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Harry Ulrich. "We had been used to deploying our ships every six months and sending a replacement over, and it occurred to us that it's not the way we'd operate in a conflict. This new concept is how we are going to deploy our forces. This has changed how we man, fund and train our ships. It has been a fundamental change for us."
Through exercises such as MS/ME04, the United States continues to work towards a closer relationship with its allies.
"In the last 50 years, the United States has demonstrated time and time again that we are willing, able, and delighted to work with European and African allies," Ulrich explained. "We hope to get more countries involved in the next couple months."
As MS/ME04 continues, Ulrich considers the exercise to be going smoothly.
"We've been able to have 30 ships and 20,000 young men and women join us for this terrific exercise," said Ulrich. "We have responded quickly, and we are using NATO command and control procedures. I'm excited, and so are the 20,000 young men and women participating."
MS/ME04 is slated to end July 16.
Summer Pulse '04 is the simultaneous deployment of seven aircraft carrier strike groups (CSGs), demonstrating the ability of the Navy to provide credible combat power across the globe, in five theaters, with other U.S., allied and coalition military forces. Summer Pulse is the Navy's first deployment under its new FRP.
For more information about Summer Pulse '04, visit the CFFC Web site at www.cffc.navy.mil/summerpulse04.htm or visit the Summer Pulse '04 Navy NewsStand site at www.news.navy.mil/local/pulse04.
For related news, visit the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn65.