By Rear Adm. Daniel H. Fillion
Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 3
Partnerships matter. Throughout the planning stages and execution phases of Rim of the Pacific 2016, I witnessed firsthand the importance of this exercise and why this type of training matters. Twenty-six nations came together in Hawaii and off the coast of Southern California to learn and work together, so that if real world events occur that require a collective response to a natural disaster or a crisis this team could rapidly form as an effective coalition. RIMPAC helps foster and reaffirm relationships during peacetime or in crisis, and reminds us all that we are stronger when we operate and train as one team.
While underway aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) for RIMPAC 2016, I had the privilege to serve as the deputy commander for Combined Task Force 17, under the command of Royal New Zealand Navy Commodore James Gilmour. Combined Task Force 176 was the amphibious task force for the exercise and, throughout the weeks at sea, the task force engaged in multiple training events such as air assaults, amphibious assaults, beach raids, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and flight deck and well deck interoperability with partner nation’s assets.
The RIMPAC 2016’s success is immeasurable. Seeing hundreds of Marines and partner nations’ ground forces depart USS America’s flight deck on CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters and MV-2B Ospreys to go ashore and into a simulated fight was remarkable and flawlessly executed. Observing USS America’s medical department, Fleet Surgical Team 1, and Australian medical officers and corpsman effectively responding together during a fast-paced and challenging humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training event stressed the importance of always being prepared for any crisis or mission. The interoperability operations that took place between USS America, amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22) and the Royal Australian Navy’s Canberra-class amphibious ship HMAS Canberra (LHD 02) were impressive and highlighted the achievement of clear communication and coordination. Finally, the massive group formation sail with 13 partner nations and 40 ships and submarines sailing in the Pacific demonstrated supreme seamanship and reemphasized the cohesive, team-building nature of RIMPAC.
RIMPAC provided a relevant, realistic training program so that all participating nations and forces could exercise a wide range of capabilities and demonstrate the inherent flexibility of maritime operations. RIMPAC 2016’s lessons learned will be used to refine future RIMPAC exercises and other multinational training events that take place throughout the globe annually.
RIMPAC allowed senior leaders from multiple nations to learn from each other and, more importantly, to build on existing relationships and develop new ones. What was most impressive across the entire force was witnessing relationships developing between the hundreds of junior officers, noncommissioned officers, and junior enlisted men and women. I had the vantage point of watching Commodore Gilmour expertly direct the largest task force in RIMPAC 2016. The professionalism and competency that he brought to the task force made the team cohesive and highly effective. These relationships will make us a multinational force that will stand ready to respond if called upon anywhere, anytime.
The United States and our international partners are serving in a complex environment where threats are not always obvious. Navies around the world must always be ready to ensure the safety of sea lanes and maintain security on the world’s oceans. In order to sustain both objectives, we must continue to work as a unified team and continue to participate in training events such as RIMPAC.
Editor’s note: For more information on RIMPAC 2016, visit the following links:
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