ARABIAN GULF (NNS) -- U.S. maritime forces aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) and the Island-class Coast Guard cutter USCGC Monomoy partnered with an Iraqi navy Swift Boat (P-310) to complete a monthly bilateral exercise in the Arabian Gulf, Feb. 14-15.
The exercise provided a surface warfare experience with the partnering nations by exchanging subject matter experts (SME) and conducting live-fire exercises in a tactical environment.
"The goal of this exercise is to build interoperability and work together with Iraq," said Lt.j.g. Samuel Ross, a bilateral liaison assigned to Commander, Task Force 55. "The relationships we build through these bilaterals are what allow the Navy to grow and be able to operate in the Arabian Gulf."
U.S. forces in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations have been conducting various Iraqi bilateral exercises over the past 18 months. Each exercise introduces a variety of elements from surface and air warfare, to visit,, board, search, seizures (VBSS) and interdiction operations.
"An important factor in our operations is communications," said Ross. "In the maritime domain, which is the Arabian Gulf, communications help us level the playing field and work together as a cohesive unit."
Continuing the theme of strong communication, SMEs from the U.S. and Iraqi maritime forces worked together, going from ship to ship, demonstrating tactics, and synchronizing weapons systems to promote combined-joint interoperability.
"Having similar weapons systems, we can share the knowledge with our allies so that we both can use our weapons effectively and safely," said Gunner's Mate 1st Class Christopher Lamotte, Russell's armory lead petty officer. "With technology always changing, we can rely on our partners. If they have a new system, we can share the knowledge, and this is what makes us into a stronger Navy."
During the two-day exercise, coalition forces performed weapons synchronization, maritime infrastructure protection exercises (MIPEX), and combined-joint gun exercises.
"MIPEX provides an opportunity to practice our force protection tactics with joint and international partners," said Lt. Andrew Corwell, U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia's current operations officer. "The U.S. Coast Guard understands coastal operations, and this helps our ability to interact with various navies and coast guards in this area that are uses to these coastal environments."
Coalition partners completed live-fire exercises, from basic to more advanced operations. The three ships involved were capable of integrating formation tactics in targeting a simulated surface contact.
"This bilateral was a big success. We reached all of our mission objectives," said Ross. "We were able to complete multiple scenario-based exercises, and we were able to build on our existing relationship with Iraq. This was a big Bravo Zulu to all of the joint-combined units, and we look forward to our next monthly exercise."
Commander, Task Force 55 controls surface forces including U.S. Navy coastal patrol craft and U.S Coast Guard patrols boats in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. U.S. 5th Fleet continues to expand its relationship with the Iraqi navy through key leader engagements, professional exchanges and by conducting exercises in the Arabian Gulf.
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