KARLSKRONA, Sweden (NNS) -- Maritime forces from 12 countries will participate in the largest multinational naval exercise this year in the Baltic Sea June 8-19.
The Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) exercise is an annual event aimed at improving interoperability and cooperation among regional allies.
"During the exercise, Sailors will work side-by-side with other personnel from partner nations while they are in port and underway," said Rear Adm. John N. Christenson, commander, Carrier Strike Group 12, embarked aboard USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) during a press conference on board the ship.
"They will become familiar with the other militaries' operations, procedures and practices."
Christenson, the officer in tactical command for the exercise, was joined Swedish Rear Adm. Anders Grenstad at the press conference. Grenstad is the Royal Swedish Navy chief of staff and commander, Maritime Component Command. He is the Swedish equivalent of the U.S. Navy's chief of naval operations.
"BALTOPS provides the opportunity for personnel of all participating nations to engage in realistic and challenging maritime training to build experience, cooperation and teamwork," said Christenson.
Sweden is hosting the in-port final planning phase and has organized various official and unofficial activities ranging from a harbor celebration to sporting events. The goal is to get Sailors from different nations together to form strong bonds before the exercise begins.
"The interaction of our forces recreationally is essential for interaction professionally, tearing down barriers between cultures," Grenstad said. "The personal relationships developed at these events allow our Sailors to really understand one another. This translates directly to our operational capability when we are underway together."
Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States are participating in the exercise. The U.S. participants believe this is an example of how teamwork among different nations helps to increase stability, diminish threats to peace and strengthens relationships between nations.
"The Baltic Sea provides a unique training opportunity due to heavy commercial shipping traffic and the inherently unpredictable nature of the sea itself," Grenstad said.
"It's vital for our Sailors to conduct realistic training in unfamiliar waters, and it provides an important opportunity for them to see the world. This greatly affects their quality of life," Christenson added.
This is the 37th iteration of BALTOPS, intended to improve interoperability with partner nations by conducting peace support operations at sea, including gunnery exercises, replenishments at sea, undersea warfare, radar tracking, mine countermeasures, seamanship, search and rescue, maritime interdiction operations and scenarios dealing with potential real-world crises and maritime security.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe -U.S. Naval Forces Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/c6f.