Reflections on Cutlass Express 2013

By Capt. Guy Jackson
Cutlass Express 2013 Exercise Director

Maritime security is important, plain and simple. It matters to those who make fishing their livelihood. It matters to commercial shippers who go in and out port. It matters to each of us who rely on the global goods transported by the sea.

Capt. Guy Jackson, Exercise Director of Cutlass Express 2013, speaks to maritime forces at the opening ceremony of Cutlass Express 2013 at the Seychelles Coast Guard Base.

Capt. Guy Jackson, Exercise Director of Cutlass Express 2013, speaks to maritime forces at the opening ceremony of Cutlass Express 2013 at the Seychelles Coast Guard Base.

With that in mind, an exercise like Cutlass Express has great importance. As this year’s Exercise Director, I was impressed with the enthusiasm and professionalism of all participants. They needed no additional motivation and proved to me by their work ethic and intensity just how important maritime security was to them.

Cutlass Express is about strengthening maritime partnerships and inoperability in East Africa, and we accomplished that over the past week (the exercise began Monday, Nov. 11). The capstone phase was the underway portion where patrol boats and embarked boarding teams conducted boarding drills across four nations in East Africa, demonstrating interoperability and information sharing. That’s impressive!

Boarding team members from Mauritius set a perimeter throughout the target vessel as Chief Petty Officer Charles H. Johnson and Petty Officer 2nd Class John A. Wilcox, U.S. Navy maritime interdiction operations experts, observe in the background during a counter piracy scenario of Cutlass Express 2013.

Boarding team members from Mauritius set a perimeter throughout the target vessel as Chief Petty Officer Charles H. Johnson and Petty Officer 2nd Class John A. Wilcox, U.S. Navy maritime interdiction operations experts, observe in the background during a counter piracy scenario of Cutlass Express 2013.

Esbern Snare’s counter-piracy efforts showcase critical elements of maritime security: information and responsiveness. And those pieces were the essence of what we put in practice during Cutlass Express.

For Cutlass Express, East African boarding teams boarded simulated suspect vessels and showed that they mean business. Watchstanders in the Maritime Operations Centers were equally important, working together, communicating effectively, and increasing maritime domain awareness so that boarding teams could respond on a moment’s notice with accurate information.

Armed Forces for the Defence of Mozambique members board a target vessel during Exercise Cutlass Express 2013.

Armed Forces for the Defence of Mozambique members board a target vessel during Exercise Cutlass Express 2013.

I personally went out during the counter-piracy scenario and saw the great work of the Mauritius, Seychellois Coast Guard, and East African Standby Forces visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) teams.  The teams looked like a well-oiled machine as they boarded the ship, searched the vessel and detained the pirates. I must say that getting underway to see that type of teamwork in person was a highlight of the exercise for me.

As we closed the exercise, I challenged participants to continue growing, share best practices and focus on interoperability, and I am confident each will.

No doubt, working so closely together strengthened partnerships. And those partnerships will be key to maritime security in this region.

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Reflections on Cutlass Express 2013