USS GETYSBURG, At Sea (NNS) -- Exercise Joint Warrior 12-2 concluded off the coast of Scotland, Oct. 11.
Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26 took part in the exercise with guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64), guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) fleet replenishment ship USNS Leroy Grumman (TAO 195), Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) 46 Detachment 2 and U.S. maritime support reconnaissance patrol aircraft from Experimental Evaluation Test Squadron (VX) 1, Patrol Squadron (VP) 9 and VP 10.
The biannual exercise, which is the largest military exercise in Europe, began Oct. 1, and was planned by the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS) in the United Kingdom. It is used by the U.K. as their advanced naval certification course and is on par with a U.S. Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX), which certifies U.S. ships for deployment.
"We had the opportunity to work with live aircraft, live submarines, live ships, we get to shoot our guns, and we're doing it in a new and different area," said Capt. Bob Hein, Gettysburg's commanding officer. "We lose the home field advantage, but as a commanding officer, I think that's a good thing."
The two-week exercise involved many different scenarios, some of which provided a rare opportunity for the ships involved.
"The exercise is designed to test the skill, knowledge and equipment of the participants in a range of different environments," said Capt. Paul Titterton, director of JTEPS. "By training in this fashion, we are able to prepare for a whole range of potential and ultimately realistic tactical scenarios, from out-and-out warfare to rescuing fishermen captured by pirates."
The U.S. ships participated in simulated missions aimed to test air, surface and subsurface capabilities.
"We conducted anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare events and we also did some smaller exercises like NEO (non-combatant evacuation operation) and mine clearance operations," said Capt. Nelson Castro, commander, DESRON 26.
The exercise is intended to test and improve interoperability and to train allies in a maritime environment, where nations can prepare forces for combined operations.
"It has been a great opportunity to test our interoperability and develop common tactics, techniques and procedures," said Castro.
One of the operations taken on by a multinational force was minesweeping.
"Our task group was integrated with the Royal Navy and its minesweepers," said Castro. "The operations were a great opportunity to improve our interoperability and we derived many new procedures to execute missions together."
Another part of the operation included simulated visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) missions.
"Apart from the cold weather, it was very similar to our normal VBSS training," said Castro. "It provided a different venue with different perspectives brought by the U.K. trainers."
In order to complete all of the missions, extensive planning took place.
"From mid-August through the actual execution date, DESRON 26 did a lot of planning, with JTEPS and then all the other units as well," said Lt. Cmdr. Jason Lautar. "And the planning that took place during Joint Warrior was vital to every mission we did."
The exercise was detail-oriented and included simulated media arriving aboard Gettysburg to interview Hein and Castro.
"The press conference was tough. You had friendly, neutral and aggressive reporters asking very pointed and political questions," said Castro. "We just ensured that we provided facts and tried not to speculate in areas outside of our expertise."
The exercise, which occurs off the coast of Scotland twice a year, provides an opportunity for U.S. Sailors to interact with service members from coalition forces.
"I think it was really successful," said Lautar. "Overall it was great working with all the ships, all the units that participated. The interaction with the LNOs (liaison naval officers), having a British LNO onboard, was outstanding. All in all, I think Joint Warrior went well."
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