ABOARD USS STETHEM, At Sea (NNS) -- After a successful Counter Special Operations Forces Exercise (CSOFEX) 06, USS Stethem (DDG 63) joined the USS Essex (LHD 2)-led Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ESXARG) for Talon Vision and Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) FY 07 off the coast of the Philippines Oct. 16-31 for more force protection and maritime interdiction operation (MIO) training with the Philippine Navy.
Stethem's primary focus during the exercise was to work with the Philippine ship RP Artemio Ricarte (PS 37) and members of the Philippine naval special operations group (NAVSOG). The bilateral training involved visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), and oil platform protection drills. Stethem and Ricarte also engaged in joint seamanship and navigation exercises, including leapfrogs, a highline transfer and basic formation steaming together.
Cmdr. Robert P. Gonzales, Stethem commanding officer, said that the two ships and personnel for both navies enjoyed a special relationship during the exercise.
"We are certain that this focused and coordinated bilateral training afforded our navies an incredible opportunity to learn from each other and learn valuable skills that can be applied to creating more peace and stability in this region," he said. "We give a lot of credit to the Philippine sailors for their eagerness to learn and ability to retain the training."
Stethem's VBSS team conducted boardings on Ricarte to practice and sharpen their skills, as Philippine NAVSOG sailors looked on.
"It was a great opportunity to see our two navies work so close together and share suggestions and improvements about the training conducted," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class (SW) Albert Sebastian, a member of one of the Stethem boat crews. "The Philippine sailors we worked with were the equivalent of Navy SEALs [Sea, Air, Land], so it was an honor and privilege to work with them."
Seven Philippine sailors were also invited aboard Stethem for a one-night stay with the crew. They were taken on tours of the ship, ate in the crew mess and in the wardroom, and learned about life aboard a U.S. Navy vessel. Stethem crew members appreciated their professionalism, courtesy and enthusiasm to learn about the ship.
On the last day of the exercise, the Philippine NAVSOG and Stethem VBSS team conducted oil platform protection training in the Philippines' Batangas Bay. The teams practiced day and night tactics while on the oil platform.
Both teams were very excited about the opportunity to train and work together.
"It is always fulfilling to work with other nations' navies," said Chief Fire Controlman (SW) Nathan Rose. "We always have so much to teach each other. I just hate that the time went so fast."
Stethem is an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer that operates out of Yokosuka, Japan, as part of the Navy's only permanently forward deployed naval forces, and served with Commander, Task Force 76 during Talon Vision and Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) FY 07. Task Force 76 is the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force and is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.
For related news, visit the Commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. 7th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/ctf76/.