Nations Gather to Prep for Black Sea Interoperability Exercise

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Commander, Carrier Strike Group 12, hosted representatives of 11 nations Dec. 2-4 for the initial planning conference for the 37th annual Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) exercise at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel.

BALTOPS 2009 will take place in the Baltic Sea June 8-19, 2009 and is the largest international exercise organized in the Baltic.

The purpose of BALTOPS is to promote mutual understanding and maritime interoperability between U.S. Navy, NATO and Partnership for Peace (PFP) participants through a series of multilateral training exercises. Carrier Strike Group 12 is assigned as the primary planning, coordination and execution command for the exercise.

For the 2009 BALTOPS exercise, 12 countries are scheduled to participate: Estonia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“The purpose of BALTOPS is to bring all of the nations together in one exercise,” said Cmdr. J.G. Olaf Albrecht, the head of the delegation from the German Navy Fleet Headquarters. “We learn how other navies work and how to live together in the Baltic Sea, especially the nations which are former Soviet nations such as Lithuania and Latvia. It’s a very educational experience.”

The initial planning conference is only one step in the preparation for a successful BALTOPS.

“We have more planning conferences left; the main planning conference will be hosted in Germany,” said Lt. Sam Bethune, Carrier Strike Group 12 exercise lead planner for BALTOPS. “And the final planning conference will be hosted by Poland. Not only are these nations helping to plan the exercise, but they’re hosting our conferences so we can learn a little bit about their country and culture as we do the planning.”

BALTOPS is an important experience because it improves interoperability among the participating nations and creates forces that are able to easily integrate into multinational, multiwarfare operations.

“It’s a great exercise and a great experience for everybody who will take part because it’s unique,” said Albrecht. “Normally, we don’t train with the United States, so this is the only time we have training with Americans inside the Baltic. It’s a very important thing.”

Through the dedication and the hard work of everyone involved, Bethune hopes this upcoming BALTOPS will be as successful as the previous 36 BALTOPS.

“We had great participation at this conference,” said Bethune. “We hope for even better participation at our next conference in Germany. We accomplished all of our goals, so we’re moving ahead in pretty good shape. It was a very successful event, and having it here in downtown Norfolk was a treat.”

Clark Meredith (NNS)

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