USS MITSCHER, At Sea (NNS) -- Guided-missile destroyers USS Mitscher (DDG 57) and USS Truxtun (DDG 103) participated in a strait transit exercise with ships from the British and Spanish navies, May 21.
The exercise is designed to test the ability of a group of ships to maneuver through a narrow body of water.
"The purpose of this exercise is to practice bringing coalition ships together to transit restrictive waters, defend the force and be able to clearly communicate with whatever other traffic is out there, whether they be merchant vessels, small craft or combatants," said Cmdr. Brian Sorenson, Mitscher's commanding officer.
British destroyer HMS Gloucester (D96) and British frigate HMS Westminster (F237) played the part of potentially hostile vessels, also transiting the strait.
"We had multiple simulated combatants transiting the strait which were being provocative toward us, but they were operating in international waters," Sorenson said. "They had every right to be there, just as we did. It allowed us to practice our control in interaction with other forces."
"There are people on the other end of the radio yelling at you, telling you you're going the wrong way, harassing you," said Lt. j.g. Drew Thorn, Mitscher's navigation officer. "You can say you're ready to be harassed and you can handle it, but you don't know until you actually have somebody coming through bridge-to-bridge [radio] telling you you're escalating things, telling you that we're pointing our guns at them, that they're pointing our guns at us. You really just want to yell back at them, but we can't. We have to be diplomatic."
"The Brits, they know what they're doing. They're really good at running these kind of exercises," Thorn said. "To have them as the bad guys and really getting into it was great."
The strait transit included Mitscher, Truxtun and Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Leroy Grumman (T-A0 195) with the Spanish navy frigate ESPS Almirante Juan de Borbon (F102) taking the lead.
"It's good to let other ships take the lead. It doesn't have to be Americans in the front, providing the leadership all the time," said Sorenson. "We do that quite often, but we also actively seek out and utilize coalition leadership."
"They (Juan de Borbon) did all the queries and all the communications. They were the ones who really ran our interaction with the opposing forces," Thorn said. "They did a really good job. They were very professional. It was really good practice for them and helped to better integrate them into our strike group."
"It was fantastic training for the Spanish in particular, and they did a great job representing the formation as we made the transit," Sorenson said.
The strait transit exercise was part of Saxon Warrior 11, an exercise hosted by the United Kingdom involving different platforms from a host of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations, including the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Sweden and Spain.
"It's not the same as the composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) we do back in the U.S.," Sorenson said. "It's very robust because we have so many coalition warships integrated with us. It really stresses us to work the command and control and communication aspect to ensure we're all on the same sheet of paper."
"We participate in coalitions around the world and an exercise like Saxon Warrior builds relationships and develops interoperability," said Sorenson.
Mitscher and Truxtun are deployed as part of the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.
For more news from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn77/.