III. Operational Primacy: 1997 in Review

Throughout 1997, the Navy and Marine Corps maintained an average of 119 ships, 62,300 Sailors, and 23,300 Marines deployed overseas in support of forward presence missions, training exercises, and operations in more than 100 countries. Sea-based and self-sustained, naval forces take advantage of bilateral training opportunities in countries with limited infrastructure or ability to support large scale military deployments. These training exercises offer emerging democracies a unique opportunity to train with U.S. forces. Forward-deployed expeditionary forces also give theater commanders a flexible, responsive force that can be positioned in key trouble spots for extended periods, as a visible example of U.S. resolve and commitment. During 1997, the Navy-Marine Corps team proved time and again that sea-based forces are the premier forward presence asset.


Arabian Gulf/Red Sea

Iraq: Operation Southern Watch (August 1992-present). Navy, Marine, and Air Force units continue to enforce the “no-fly” zone over Iraq. Naval operations in 1997 included extensive Navy and Marine aircraft sorties from the aircraft carriers Kitty Hawk (CV 63), Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Constellation (CV 64), John F. Kennedy (CV 67), Nimitz (CVN 68), and George Washington (CVN 73). Operation Northern Watch (May 97-present). Navy and Marine EA-6B squadrons are operating to enforce the no-fly zone over northern Iraq.

CVN Thrust (Oct 97-present). In response to Iraq’s expulsion of UN weapons inspectors, Nimitz (CVN 68) accelerated its transit to the Arabian Gulf, while George Washington (CVN 73) swung to the Gulf from deployment in the Mediterranean to provide a formidable force with massive strike capability.

Saudi Arabia: Operation Desert Focus (July 1996-present). In the aftermath of the Khobar bombings, the First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) provided counterintelligence team support for force protection to Joint Task Force-Southwest Asia (JTF-SWA). The deployment was extended into FY 97 because of the continued terrorist threat.

Bahrain: Reinforcement of Naval Security in Bahrain (April-June 1997). A reinforced platoon of the Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) Company deployed in response to a Navy Central Command (NavCent) request immediately following indications and warnings of terrorist threats. Naval Reserve Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Units deployed to Manama, Bahrain, to augment port surveillance and security.

Maritime Interception Operations: (August 1990 - present). Surface combatants, amphibious ships, and maritime patrol aircraft continue the maritime intercept operations in the Arabian Gulf in support of U.N. sanctions against Iraq. Almost 25,000 queries, 11,000 boardings, and over 600 diverts of shipping have occurred since the operation began. U.S. Navy ships are the principle tool for enforcing the U.N. mandated sanctions against Iraq.


Democratic Peoples Republic Of The Congo (Formerly Zaire): Operation Guardian Retrieval (March-June 97). As conditions in Kinshasa deteriorated, Nassau (LHA 4), with elements of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) (MEU(SOC)) on board, was dispatched off the coast of Zaire. The remainder of the 26th MEU(SOC) Forward on board Nashville (LPD 13) and Pensacola (LSD 38) remained in the Mediterranean Sea to provide strategic reserve for the NATO Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Bosnia. The 26th MEU(SOC) assumed the main effort of a planned noncombatant evacuation operation named Joint Task Force Guardian Retrieval. Kearsarge (LHD 3) and the 22d MEU(SOC) deployed two weeks early to relieve Nassau and the 26th MEU(SOC); the former assumed responsibility for the Joint Task Force (JTF) mission on 2 May 1997.

Sierra Leone: Operation Noble Obelisk (May-June 97). As Operation Guardian Retrieval finished, the deteriorating security situation in Freetown, Sierra Leone, required Kearsarge (LHD3) and the 22d MEU(SOC) to relocate quickly to another crisis operating area. As commander for JTF Noble Obelisk, the 22d MEU(SOC) evacuated 451 American citizens and 2,059 third-country nationals in four days to Kearsarge. All evacuees were later transferred to Conakry, Guinea, for processing.


Bosnia: Operation Deliberate Guard (December 1996-present). Earlier Bosnian-related operations (Operations Deny Flight and Decisive Edge) transitioned to Operation Deliberate Guard in support of the Stabilization Force (SFOR). Carrier and shore-based aviation squadrons continue joint and combined flight operations to enforce the “no-fly” zone over the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Additional Navy and Marine F/A-18 and EA-6B aircraft, forward-deployed to Aviano, Italy, provide suppression of enemy air defense, close air support, and electronic warfare capabilities to the SFOR. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Seabees and Marines augment Army civil affairs brigades to support specific peacekeeping operations. Nearly 500 Naval Reserve personnel were recalled to support Bosnian operations.

Adriatic Sea: Operation Joint Guard (December 1996-present). During four of five operational phases, SFOR designated deployed MEU(SOC)s as the reserve in support of the NATO-led implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords. In March 1997, Nassau and the 26th MEU(SOC) returned to the Adriatic Sea as a supporting force after responding to the crises in the former Zaire and Sierra Leone. Nassauwas later relieved byKearsarge and the 22d MEU(SOC). During 1997, Navy maritime patrol aircraft supplied reconnaissance support to area commanders. VMU-2, a Marine Corps unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) squadron equipped with the Pioneer UAV, transmitted a video data link to Navy P-3 aircraft for further relay to the three multinational divisions. VMU-1 deployed in September 1997 to provide a video link to officials during the Bosnian municipal elections. Marine active and reserve personnel augment USCINCEUR’s effort in Bosnia.

Albania: Operation Silver Wake (March-July 1997). USS Nassau(LHA 4) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), with the 26th MEU(SOC) embarked, conducted a noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO) in Tirana, Albania. Spreading anarchy in Albania compelled the evacuation of 877 Americans and third-country nationals. Following the evacuation, Marines provided security for personnel remaining in the embassy and housing compounds. These elements were later relieved by Marine Corps Security Forces from Naples, Italy, and Souda Bay, Crete.

Caribbean and South America

Counterdrug Operations: Active and reserve Navy ships, submarines, and aircraft continue detection and monitoring missions in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Navy and Marine Corps personnel serve as tactical planners, analysts, and mobile training teams in drug-source countries to enhance host-nation law enforcement. Marine Corps units have also conducted 55 missions along the Southwest border, in support of domestic law enforcement agencies. Navy personnel operate and maintain re-locatable over-the-horizon radar (ROTHR) sites in Virginia and Texas, providing wide area surveillance of the transit zone. Efforts are underway to construct a ROTHR site in Puerto Rico, which will extend surveillance capabilities to the source countries. Additional surveillance is provided by a Naval Reserve E-2 radar early warning aircraft squadron established in support of counterdrug operations. The Director of Naval Intelligence maintains dedicated, maritime-focused counterdrug intelligence support and interagency coordination via multisource fusion analysis of commercial shipping and noncommercial vessels. These intelligence sources provided information to law enforcement and Department of Defense personnel.

Haiti: New Horizons Haiti (formerly exercise Fairwinds) (April 96-Dec 97). Navy Seabees, Marine engineers, and Navy medical units supported the nation building efforts of “U.S. Support Group Haiti.” These units provided important humanitarian assistance to the Government of Haiti through the completion of engineering projects and medical support.

Cuba: Cuban Migrant Support (August 1994-present). Marines from the Second Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) continue the Cuban and Haitian migrant handling, processing, and security missions in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Navy personnel provide medical and logistic support to the migrants. Since September 1994, as many as 40,000 migrants housed at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Facility have been repatriated.

Peru: Operation Laser Strike (September 1996-June 1997). Marines supported the counter-drug operations of U.S. Southern Command (CINCSOUTH) with a ground mobile radar and communications team.


Korea: Naval sea and air power forward-based in Yokosuka, Sasebo, and Atsugi, along with Marine expeditionary forces from Okinawa, continue to provide a visible and unambiguous presence around the Korean peninsula. Four at-sea training exercises were conducted with South Korean forces: Sharem 120 featured Thach (FFG 43), Hewitt (DD 966), and Topeka (SSN 754) in an antisubmarine exercise; MCMEX tested anti-mine warfare expertise with Guardian (MCM 5) and Patriot (MCM 7); Foal Eagle ’97 was a large-scale carrier battle group exercise centered on the Independence (CV 62) battle group, combatants from 3rd Fleet, and numerous support ships; Ulchii Focus Lens ’97 is a major joint and combined command and control exercise for the Blue Ridge (LCC 19), 7th Fleet’s command ship forward deployed in Japan. These highly beneficial exercises are integral to our ability to operate in a nearly seamless fashion with South Korean forces.

Guam: Operation Pacific Haven (September 1996-March 1997). Navy personnel from Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Five, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Seabees based in Guam, Marine translators, and a reinforced Marine rifle company from Okinawa supported the USCINCPAC effort of screening and processing Kurdish refugees from northern Iraq.

Korean Airlines Flight 801: Crash Recovery Operations (August 1997). Navy helicopter units provided medical evacuation assistance to survivors to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Guam. The Navy’s medical and dental personnel were instrumental in the recovery and identification of victims. In addition, a seven-member special psychiatric rapid intervention team (SPRINT) was dispatched from the Naval Medical Center, San Diego, two days after the crash to provide counseling and emotional support for rescue workers. Seabees provided further rescue and salvage support to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Cambodia: Operation Bevel Edge (July 1997). Marines from the Third Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) deployed to Utapao, Thailand, to support a USCINCPAC JTF mission. The 31st MEU(SOC) was placed on alert for a possible NEO from Cambodia.


West African Training Cruise (WATC): This annual deployment provides interaction between U.S. Naval forces and their host-nation counterparts for military training, expanded military-to-military relations, and to maintain familiarity with the West African littoral environment. The Navy and Marine forces in the Whidbey Island (LSD 41) during WATC 97 also participated in UNITAS 97.

UNITAS 97: The annual UNITAS deployment is a primary means of supporting regional stability in the Western Hemisphere. Active and reserve surface combatants and P-3C aircraft, Marine forces from II MEF, a submarine, reserve medium lift transport aircraft, and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter join to conduct multinational exercises with Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil, while circumnavigating the continent during a five-month period. This year, France, The Netherlands, Canada, UK, Germany, and Portugal also participated during phases of the nine-nation, 29-city deployment. These exercises often provide the only opportunity for Latin American forces to train with U.S. and other allied forces.

Partnership for Peace: The Partnership for Peace (PfP) program continues to be the centerpiece of NATO’s strategic relationship with Central and Eastern European nations. These operations, part of our bilateral military-to-military contacts program, included basic seamanship exercises and familiarization visits with the regional forces. Surface ships, aircraft, and submarines participated in many exercises in 1997 including: BALTOPS ’97, Ioklos, Briz, Posidon, and 5 other bilateral cooperative exercises which took place in the Mediterranean, Baltic, and Black Seas. These exercises are central to Sixth Fleet’s participation in PfP endeavors.

Black Sea Operations: Navy and Marine Corps units have conducted training operations with forces from Romania, Ukraine, and Bulgaria. Sailors and Marines make a major contribution to national efforts aimed at building Black Sea alliances and furthering relationships via Partnership for Peace. Through exercises such as Rescue Eagle and Sea Breeze, forward-deployed, self-sustained naval forces provide excellent opportunities for initial bilateral training with the armed forces of emerging democracies.

Baltic Challenge 97: The second Baltic Challenge exercise involved 2,800 personnel from nine nations: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Ukraine and the United States. Focused primarily on peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance, naval active and reserve forces demonstrated a range of capabilities that support operational objectives in Europe, including the stationing of a Maritime Prepositioning Force in the Baltic Sea. Additionally, reservists made up nearly 25% of the Marine Forces deploying to Estonia, showcasing the readiness and skill inherent in the “total force.”

Blue Harrier 97: This biennial, multinational mine-warfare exercise highlighted the newly converted mine countermeasures (MCM) command-and-control ship Inchon (MCS 12). This exercise provided NATO mine warfare units the opportunity to interact in tactics and procedures, which promoted cooperation and mutual understanding amongst its participants.

Tandem Thrust 97: Tandem Thrust 97 was conducted in the Shoal Water Bay Training Area, Australia. As part of a Combined Task Force (CTF) headed by Commander Seventh Fleet, forces from Independence (CV 62) Carrier Battle Group, an Amphibious Ready Group built around the New Orleans (LPH 11), III MEF, and the 11th MEU(SOC) worked with other US and Australian forces on a short-warning crisis-action scenario. The exercise implemented USCINCPAC’s cooperative engagement strategy and demonstrated U.S.-Australian cooperation.

Carat 97: Regional stability in Southeast Asia is supported by the Pacific Fleet’s cooperation afloat readiness and training (CARAT) program, patterned after UNITAS. Active and reserve surface combatants, maritime patrol aircraft, a special purpose Marine air-ground task force, medical detachments, and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter conduct exercise with six countries in the South China Sea region for two months each year. In 1997, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand participated. Our naval forces exercised with the host nation’s air, sea, and land forces to promote regional maritime interoperability, increase readiness, enhance military-to-military relations, and ensure stability of Southeast Asian sea lanes of communication.

Kernel Blitz 97: This large scale amphibious exercise was conducted at Camp Pendleton, California in June 1997. As a maritime contingency response to a freedom-of- navigation challenge, Kernel Blitz 97 demonstrated the inherent flexibility of the Navy- Marine Corps team with at sea, amphibious, and subsequent operations ashore. The use of emerging technology was a key underlying concept to Kernel Blitz 97. Using the Global Command and Control System (GCCS), all participating units received a common tactical and imagery picture from multiple sources.

Arctic Care 97: Navy and Marine reservists of the 4th Force Service Support Group participated in a joint civic action exercise in isolated villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska. This exercise provided valuable training for 150 Marines and Sailors as they augmented the understaffed rural health care system. Humanitarian medical, dental, veterinary, and light engineering support were afforded to the indigenous Yupik Eskimo population.

Military Support To Civil Authorities

Chemical-Biological Incident Response Force: In response to the threat of weapons of mass destruction against American interests, the Marine Corps Chemical-Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) provided support for national events during 1997— beginning with a deployment to Washington, D.C., for the second inauguration of President Clinton. The CBIRF, consisting of both Marine and Navy personnel, was positioned to quickly respond to a terrorist chemical or biological attack. Functioning within the Federal Response Plan and working with the First Army’s Response Task Force, the CBIRF developed a helpful relationship with other first responders. In addition, the CBIRF supported the Summit of Eight in Denver, Colorado during the summer of 1997.

Western U.S. Floods: (Winter/Spring 1997). Nevada and California experienced record rainfalls and rapid winter snow melts in 1997. Widespread flooding forced the evacuation of thousands of residents and caused extensive damage. Naval Reserve emergency preparedness liaison officers (EPLOs) were assigned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and National Guard emergency operations centers to coordinate Federal, Department of Defense, and state assets. Navy EPLOs coordinated Naval Construction Battalion efforts to repair weakened dams and bridges, and coordinated logistical support requirements, including shipment of more than one million sandbags.

Great Plains Blizzard and Flood: (Winter/Spring 1997). North and South Dakota’s record-setting snowfall and subsequent snow melt produced extensive flooding. During these events, Navy EPLOs were responsible for coordinating support equipment from nearby bases. Navy EPLOs established themselves on site and became the official Department of Defense representatives for coordinating DOD support with the 5th Continental Army.

When later Spring floods again affected South Dakota and Minnesota, Navy EPLOs were on scene. Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel entered the fray, and Navy EPLOs were requested to once again help coordinate support efforts. Navy EPLOs worked with the Department of Defense Disaster Coordination Office, the other armed services, and many local agencies.

Freedom Of Navigation

The ability to move U.S. forces when and where they are needed depends upon unfettered access to the world’s oceans and international airspace. To ensure access as a matter of legal right, U.S. naval forces in 1997 conducted more than 20 operations to protest excessive maritime claims, in support of the President’s Freedom of Navigation Program. These assertions supported the U.S. foreign policy objective of adherence by all nations to the International Law of the Sea.

Similarly, the Department of the Navy strongly supports U.S. accession to the Law of the Sea Convention as amended in 1994. A majority of the world’s nations now are signatories to the Convention, including all major maritime powers except the United States. Worldwide acceptance of the Law of the Sea Convention remains the best guarantee of a stable ocean’s regime that recognizes navigational and overflight freedom crucial to naval operations. Accession by the United States also provides less of an incentive for states to make and enforce excessive claims. That should, in the long term, result in a decline in the number of excessive maritime claims which restrict our rights of mobility and access.

The Department of the Navy is operating today to provide for America’s interests. The forward-deployed strategy is cost-effective for the nation while simultaneously providing a ready, responsive force capable of meeting the challenges of today’s chaotic world. Conducting daily operations and exercises with allies reinforces our commitments to friends and potential adversaries alike.

Return to the Contents Page