Thursday, August 20, 2009

US Navy Discuses 5th Fleet, Maritime Strategy

GULF OF ADEN (May 13, 2009) Members of a USS Gettysburg (CG 64) visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team and U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment 409 prepare to board a suspected pirate mothership after responding to a merchant vessel distress signal while operating in the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) area of responsibility as part of Combined Task Force 151. Gettysburg, a guided-missile cruiser, is serving as the flagship of CTF 151, a multinational task force established to conduct counter-piracy operations under a mission-based mandate throughout the CMF area of responsibility to actively deter, disrupt and suppress piracy in order to protect global maritime security and secure freedom of navigation for the benefit of all nations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Eric L. Beauregard.)

Dispatches from the Front:

MANAMA, Bahrain, Aug. 20, 2009 -- In the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, more than 24,000 Sailors are operating on the ground and at sea and carrying out a full spectrum of missions that support the U.S. maritime strategy.

"A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower," is a unified maritime strategy among the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coastguard that recognizes the economic links of the global system and how any disruption due to regional crises -- man-made or natural -- can adversely impact the U.S. economy and quality of life. The strategy charts a course for the sea services to work collectively with each other and international partners to prevent crises from occurring and reacting quickly should one occur to enhance global security.

The U.S. 5th Fleet is committed to executing all six core competencies of the maritime strategy which include power projection, forward presence, sea control, maritime security, deterrence and humanitarian assistance/disaster response.

"The maritime strategy raises the importance of working with international partners as the basis for global maritime security," said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet/Combined Maritime Forces. "U.S. 5th Fleet conducts operations that are focused on reassuring regional partners of the United States' commitment to security, which promotes stability and global prosperity."

Approximately 10,000 Sailors are serving at sea aboard more than 30 U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and fleet auxiliary ships and conducting combat and Maritime Security Operations (MSO) to forward U.S. interests, deter and counter disruptive countries, defeat violent extremism and strengthen partner nations' maritime capabilities in order to promote a secure maritime environment.

U.S. 5th Fleet is supporting both Operations Enduring and Iraq Freedom and helping to provide an opportunity for the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan to establish secure foundations for democracy.

More than 5,300 Sailors are serving in Iraq and 3,100 Sailors serving in Afghanistan in Riverine Squadrons, Explosive Ordinance Disposal platoons, Seabee Naval Construction Forces, Provincial Reconstruction Teams, Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Groups, and as Individual Augmentees. Currently operating in the Gulf of Oman, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 are providing 30 percent of close air support for Coalition troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

"Ronald Reagan and its carrier air wing have the highest operational tempo in the Navy," said Gortney aboard the Nimitz class aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Oman. "You're setting the standard; you're the critical part of fighting and winning today's wars; you're saving American lives every day, and that's the most important thing you can do."

In the North Arabian Gulf, Sailors are conducting operations as part of Commander Task Force Iraqi Maritime (CTF-IM) to provide maritime security, infrastructure protection, and training to the Iraqi Navy. U.S. forces operate jointly with Iraqi Navy sailors and marines, training them in point-defense force protection and visit, board, search and seizure operations.

The U.S. Navy has maintained a presence in the North Arabian Gulf since 2003, assisting the Iraqi Navy by helping provide security to their oil platforms, which account for approximately 70 to 85 percent of Iraq's revenue.

The U.S. Navy also leads the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a coalition of 22 nations that conducts MSO throughout the region and are assigned to CMF's three principle task forces- Combined Task Forces (CTF) 150, 151 and 152.

CMF is committed to defeating terrorism, preventing piracy, reducing illegal trafficking of people and drugs, and promoting the maritime environment as a safe place for mariners with legitimate business.

In response to the increase in piracy off the coast of Somalia, the U.S. Navy is leading a multinational effort to patrol the waters in the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia's Eastern Coast.

Established in January 2009, the counter-piracy task force CTF 151 actively deters, disrupts and suppresses piracy in order to protect global maritime security and secure freedom of navigation for the benefit of all nations. It operates in the Gulf of Aden and the eastern coast of Somalia, covering an area of approximately 1.1 million square miles.

Piracy impacts less than 1% of shipping with more than 33,000 vessels transit the Gulf of Aden annually. In 2009, there have been 136 attempted attacks - of which, 28 were successful and 103 were unsuccessful.

CTF 151 and other cooperating naval forces have encountered more than 527 pirates; 282 were disarmed and released, 235 were turned over for prosecution.

"While the ultimate solution to the problem of piracy is ashore in Somalia, the Combined Maritime Forces made the decision to focus maritime efforts on security and stability at sea in order to create a lawful maritime order and deter acts of piracy on the high seas while giving the international community time to address the long-term solution of piracy," said Gortney.

As part of Joint Task Force Crisis Response (JTF-CR), the U.S. Navy is also trained and prepared to respond to any disaster or humanitarian contingency in the region. In December 2008, Sailors participated in Exercise Internal Look 2009, a crisis response exercise that measured and enhanced the capabilities of U.S. forces to respond to a natural disaster in the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility.

In December 2004, U.S. and Coalition maritime forces were called on to support tsunami relief efforts both within the region and outside after a catastrophic tsunami struck parts of Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, India, Seychelles, and Somalia Dec. 26, 2004. Coalition maritime assets were flexible enough to continue the maritime operation mission while simultaneously equipped to help deliver relief supplies, provide medical support, and assist with clean up efforts.

"U.S. Naval forces are ready and capable across the full range of maritime operations... right now and right here," said Gortney. "But our perspective is for the long term. We have been here almost 60 years, and we will continue to work with regional nations to enhance cooperation, ensure maritime security and promote stability for years to come."

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Schaeffer.)

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