VALPARAISO, Chile (NNS) -- Guided-missile frigates USS Boone (FFG 28) and USS Thach (FFG 43) departed Valparaiso, Chile, July 8, after completing the Pacific phase (PAC) of UNITAS 52.
Chilean, Colombian, Ecuadorian and Peruvian and U.S. naval ships and personnel spent two weeks conducting joint exercises off the coast of Chile to improve interoperability and operational cooperation.
UNITAS PAC was hosted by the Chilean navy and began and ended in Valparaiso. The closing ceremonies were attended by Chilean Vice Adm. Francisco Guzman Vial, deputy commander in chief of the Chilean Navy and Rear Adm. Victor Guillory, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet. The ceremonies were held at the Chilean Naval War College in Valparaiso and included a lessons learned debrief, plaque exchange and awards ceremony.
"The sacrifice to bring all of you here was worth while because of the high level of training that occurred here," said Chilean Rear Adm. Francisco Garcia-Huidobro, UNITAS multinational force commander. "But equally important, we have had fun and we realize that we can work together successfully in real life."
Guillory was awarded the Chilean Medal of the Naval Order of Merit, officer degree, in recognition of his genuine commitment and significant contribution to strengthening the relationships between the navies of the U.S. and Chile.
"Exercises such as UNITAS offer our maritime forces an excellent opportunity to enhance maritime domain awareness and interoperability with participating navies in the region...they help to build upon our already strong relationships," said Guillory.
Thach held the closing reception aboard their ship later that evening. Officers and crews from the 13 participating ships were invited to attend the event, which was catered by Thach's culinary specialists and food service assistants. Chilean navy Vice Adm. Jose Miguel Gonzalez, commander, Chilean Navy Operations Command and task group commanders from the participating nations were present at the event.
"It was a great honor to host the final UNITAS reception aboard USS Thach," said Cmdr. Jeffrey Scudder, Thach's commanding officer. It allowed us the opportunity to showcase the ship, our Sailors and the friendships we have made by working together."
The ceremonies and reception were the culmination of the two week exercise which was divided into phases. After the initial planning conference in Valparaiso, July 24-28, the ships set sail for Coquimbo, Chile, executing the work-up phase underway. While at sea, the participants conducted replenishment-at-sea, helicopter cross-deck operations, visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), live gunnery exercises and division tactics.
"During the work-up phase we were afforded the opportunity to develop our operational plans," said Cmdr. Roy Love, Boone's commanding officer. "Our crews and staffs came together to forge a schedule that would allow us to complete all of the objectives of this exercise. The flexibility demonstrated by everyone made our interoperability smooth and successful."
While in Coquimbo, the Sailors participated in several sporting events including a 4-mile race and a tug of war competition, July 3. Sailors also volunteered at the Escuela Santa Cecelia, a local school for underprivileged children, July 2. The stay in Coquimbo also gave UNITAS leadership the opportunity to solidify the plans for the exercise scenario phase (ESP).
"It's important to be able to get off the ship and come into the community," said Lt. Eliana Rojas, of Colombian navy ship CNS Buenaventura (BM 162). "Just as one grain of sand adds to the beauty of a beach, if we can do one task to improve the quality of our future, why not come together do it?"
The ships departed Coquimbo to execute the ESP, July 5. The ESP was a 3-day exercise with mission objectives, where the 13 ships participating in UNITAS operated against a fictional force role-played by additional Chilean Navy and Coast Guard ships. The operations focused on maritime interdiction operations and counter-illicit trafficking. At the end of the ESP, the ships returned to Valparaiso, July 7.
"The ESP is the culmination of the work-up phase," said Lt. Jason Lautar, Boone's operations officer. "We practiced operating together and now we get to use those skills to execute a mission together."
Boone and Thach departed Chile to continue the Southern Seas 2011 deployment. The six week Chilean-American naval partnership and UNITAS PAC are part of the Southern Seas. Southern Seas is an annual six-month deployment focused on building relationships with the navies of the Americas to strengthen regional maritime security.
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