The U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, Iraqi Navy, Kuwait Naval Force and Kuwait Coast Guard completed a Kuwait, Iraq and U.S. trilateral exercise (TRILAT), Feb. 22.
This TRILAT was the third of its kind executed since March 2017 with the mission of strengthening regional partnerships, developing proficiency, improving long-term regional cooperation, safety and security, and enhancing interoperability in the mutual defense of the maritime domain in the Northern Arabian Gulf.
The exercise was led by Task Force (TF 55) and is part of a scheduled theater security cooperation engagement plan and an opportunity for the three partner nations to identify and address regional threats in support of stability and freedom of navigation in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
“The TRILAT demonstrated a high degree of tactical interoperability and close relations among the U.S., Kuwait and Iraq,” said Lt. j.g. Tim Caucutt, TF 55 force protection officer. “Through a series of high-speed exercises, participating nations sharpened their collective warfighting skills and ability to keep the Arabian Gulf open for commerce.”
Coastal patrol ships USS Tempest (PC 2), USS Hurricane (PC 3), USS Firebolt (PC 10), Island-class patrol boat USCGC Baranof (WPB 1318), Iraqi offshore support vessel Al Basra (401) and Kuwait Subahi-class patrol boat Naif (P312) participated in the exercise, focusing on search-and-rescue operations, maritime infrastructure protection operations and high value unit protection operations.
“We learn a lot from these exercises,” said Iraqi Navy 1st Lt. Ahmad Gabar, second mate of Al Basra. “We enjoy the opportunity to practice search-and-rescue and other operations we don’t get to do every day.”
Another unique facet of the exercise was the liaison exchange, an opportunity for Sailors assigned to Hurricane and Al Basra to trade ships for a few hours and learn about the capabilities of their partners. Gunner’s Mate Seaman Steven Saikaly, from Winston-Salem, N.C., jumped at the chance to meet Iraqi sailors and tour the Al Basra.
“It was a great experience being able to interact with the Iraqi sailors and learn about how they operate,” said Saikaly. “Though we are from two different countries and two different navies, we share many more similarities than we do differences.”
Lt. Cmdr. Richard Mayer, Hurricane’s commanding officer, was proud to be part of the exercise, and appreciates the value added when allied forces train together.
“Any opportunity to work with other nations is a great benefit to the crew,” said Mayer. “When we learn to work together at sea, improve our interoperability and expose the crew to other nations and cultures through exercises like this one, we ensure that all participants are read to meet any future challenge together.”
U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse comprises 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, and the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.
MC1 Bryan Neal Blair