By Commodore James ‘Jim’ Gilmour, Royal New Zealand Navy
Commander, Coalition Task Force 176
I was fortunate in 2011 to be the commanding officer of the New Zealand Defence Force amphibious support ship HMNZS Canterbury (L421) during Pacific Partnership. It was significant that a New Zealand ship was participating in a United States led mission, but, more importantly, we on board Canterbury had the honor of hosting the commander of Destroyer Squadron 23 – then U.S. Navy captain – now Rear Adm. Jessie Wilson and his staff for a four-week period during that exercise. To my knowledge, it was the first time in our history that a U.S. Navy pennant of command had flown on the mast of a New Zealand ship and, pleasingly, the exercise command and control did not miss a beat.
Whilst I reflected upon the significance of this event to the relationship between our two countries, I had no idea that within one month of handing Canterbury over to my successor, I would be embarked aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio (CG 68) under the command of U.S. Navy Capt. John Dory in the Gulf of Aden. I was in command of Combined Task Force 151, which was charged with counter-piracy operations; I am certain that it was the first time a New Zealand command pennant had flown on a the mast of a U.S. ship.
The professional relationships that were forged over these two operational experiences will last a lifetime and they reinforced in me an understanding that we are ‘cut from the same cloth’. Our countries have shared values supported by an approach to international relationships that have rules of law and respect for human rights as their foundations. New Zealanders – like Americans and our other RIMPAC partners –recognize that we have a responsibility to demonstrate our resolve through our behaviors and our actions. In order to be successful in promoting and preserving a rules based international order, nations must be able to work together in trust and this is so for our armed forces.
Trust is not a commodity that can be surged when needed. When called upon to act together, we must be able to do so rapidly. There will not be time to build trust in ourselves, our teams, our equipment, our coalition partners or our procedures from scratch. This is the role that exercises such as RIMPAC play. We come together as a group of 26 nations to build that trust through shared exercise experience and – for me as a first timer in RIMPAC – I must say I am honored to be commanding the amphibious task force. I am serving alongside some of the most impressive professionals I have ever had the privilege to associate with. Supported in command by U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Dan Fillion and U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Dave Bellon, our staff comes to the exercise from New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Chile, South Korea and Columbia. For me, this cross section of nationalities is a microcosm of the exercise itself. The challenges of language, procedures, command and control processes, and tools all have been overcome through operating together. Whilst I am talking about teams, I cannot understate the role that U.S. Navy Capt. Michael ‘Wayne’ Baze and his amazing team aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) have played in enabling our team to be successful – thank you, USS America.
Exercise RIMPAC 2016 encompasses rich training opportunities for all aspects of warfare on, in, above, and from the sea. For the amphibious task force, we are conducting these activities both in the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. Together, these training objectives help us to better understand how to build a stronger force within a multi-national environment to respond to real world peace and security efforts in the complex and dynamic world we live in. RIMPAC provides a relevant, realistic training exercise to build trust and relationships across nations, exercise a wide range of capabilities across military services, and demonstrate the inherent flexibility of maritime forces.
I have no doubt that the trusted relationships built throughout this exercise will serve us well into the future as we work together with our partners to serve as good global citizens for maintaining peace and security with our Pacific region as Capable, Adaptive Partners.
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