PUERTO BELGRANO, Argentina (NNS) -- UNITAS 48-07, a multinational exercise designed to increase interoperability of navies in the Americas, began off the coast of Central Argentina on May 3.
UNITAS 48-07 Atlantic Phase, hosted by Argentina, brings together nations with common interests in the Americas and includes Brazil, Chile, Spain and the United States.
"This is an excellent opportunity for partner nations to operate as a coalition task group," said Lt. Cmdr. Donald Voebel, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 40 operations officer. "Any time we can come together and execute precise military maneuvers and tactics is beneficial to meeting the CNO's vision of a 1,000-ship navy."
UNITAS, now in its 48th consecutive year, strengthens relationships with partner nations through at-sea operations under various maritime scenarios. The exercises are conducted annually in Atlantic and Pacific waters around South America.
"I strongly believe that navy exercises like UNITAS have built healthy, close relationships between the navies and countries in this region," said Argentina Surface Fleet Commander Adm. Antonio Torres. "They reinforce confidence and understanding. They promote friendly relations."
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard international training division trained approximately 85 Sailors from all participating countries in visit, boarding, search and seizure techniques, which helps standardize procedures and emphasizes safety.
"It is a great opportunity to interact with Sailors from different countries and help the community at the same time. I feel proud to be able to cooperate in these types of projects," said Damage Controlman 2nd Class (SW) Jorge Zuniga.
Along with navies from the Americas, Spain is also participating UNITAS Atlantic phase this year.
"Spain's presence in this exercise shows us the importance of what we are doing," said Torres. "They come from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean to be part of that unity we show to the world."
The U.S. Navy representative is Task Group 40.0, under the command of Capt. Randy Snyder, commodore DESRON 40. Task Group 40.0 is comprised of dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57), guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) and Chilean frigate CS Almirante Latorre (FFG 14).
Prior to the multinational force getting underway, there were several events in Puerto Belgrano to prepare the assembled forces for at-sea operations. Along with their exercise preparations, US Sailors took advantage of opportunities to deliver Project Handclasp materials to a local charity and participate in a wreath-laying ceremony commemorating the 25th anniversary of the loss of Argentine ship ARA General Belgrano, formerly the USS Phoenix (CL-46).
The Project Handclasp donations are gifts presented by the U.S. Navy on behalf of the people of the United States and include medical supplies, toys, hygiene products and sewing machines.
Sailors from each participating nation also rolled up their sleeves during a combined force community relations project to paint the exterior of Eva Peron Hospital in Punta Alta, the civilian community located outside of the naval base.
For more news from around the fleet, visit www.navy.mil.