RIMPAC 2014: From My Maritime Perspective

By Rear-Admiral Gilles Couturier
RIMPAC 2014 Combined Forces Maritime Component Commander

One could ask what it means to be the Combined Forces Maritime Component Commander (CFMCC) for RIMPAC 2014. But first, one needs to understand what I just said.

The Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) is the largest maritime exercise in the world and has taken place in and around the Hawaiian Islands since 1971.  It brings together military forces from countries that have real estate or significant interest in the Pacific Ocean.  The Canadian maritime contribution included divers, maritime patrol aircraft, surface and subsurface warships, and all the associated crews.  For the Royal Canadian Navy specifically, it was another great opportunity to put our warships, crews, and divers through a range of complex and challenging tasks meant to ensure we maintain the high state of readiness Canadians expect of us.

Forty-two ships and submarines representing 15 international partner nations maneuver into a close formation during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014.

Forty-two ships and submarines representing 15 international partner nations maneuver into a close formation during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014.

In the recent past, many of our nations have decided to employ military capabilities, like those at RIMPAC, to come to the assistance of countries devastated by a natural disaster. Military forces can be of great value in Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief efforts.  The most recent example of this was following typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines on November 8, 2013.

The Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Calgary (FFH-335) departs Pearl Harbor for the at-sea phase of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014.

The Royal Canadian Navy Halifax-class frigate HMCS Calgary (FFH-335) departs Pearl Harbor for the at-sea phase of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014.

We need to be prepared for anything our governments may ask us to do, so we train on how to conduct a wide scope of operations.  For example, we train on how to conduct maritime interdiction operations, anti-piracy operations, mine neutralization, and evacuating people from a dangerous area, such as a country on the brink of war.  On warships, we practice gunnery drills, hone our skills in finding submarines using aircraft, ships and helicopters, and defending ourselves against air and surface missiles.  This is what a military force needs to be prepared to do.  The security of the global commons that allows commerce to flow freely is serious business.

Now that you better understand RIMPAC, let me tell you what being the Maritime Commander for RIMPAC means.

In a few words, it all about the people, those military folks who sail in ships and submarines, fly in aircraft and helicopters, and land on beaches.  They are the training audience and are also the most professional folks you will ever meet.

In order to ensure each country’s military forces received the training they expected, we needed a plan, and that is where I earned my pay.  For nearly two years, and under the steadfast leadership of Vice Adm. Kenneth Floyd and his staff at the United States Navy’s Third Fleet, we worked with all the participating countries to put together a plan that suited their needs and met their expectations.  Then we executed that plan.

Capt. John McKinley, commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche (WMSL 751), greets Rear Adm. Giles Couturier, Combined Forces Maritime Component Commander for Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014, during open ship day.

Capt. John McKinley, commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche (WMSL 751), greets Rear Adm. Giles Couturier, Combined Forces Maritime Component Commander for Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014, during open ship day.

We started with basic drills, ensuring we could work together safely, and then added complexity in the form of more elements, scenarios, and people.  With helpful advice from great leaders and staff from all participating countries, we executed and adapted our plans, and that is what being an Admiral is all about.  I move forces into a theatre of operation in order to achieve the mission that was given to me.  You can only do this with a great team, and RIMPAC has given me the best coalition team one can ask for! Working closely with me are Chilean, Australian, American and staff from most of the 22 participating countries.  It is a privilege to be the Maritime Component Commander for RIMPAC 2014.

It is an honour to work with these 22 countries’ finest sons and daughters. They train hard, work shoulder to shoulder, and learn from each other. They do this with a smile on their faces, knowing they will be better professionals due to what they have learned end experienced during RIMPAC.  They also know this training will prove priceless when the call comes to deploy together anywhere in the world.  I know this because I know them.

So that’s what being the Commander is all about.  It is also about smiling and loving your job. I said these professionals from 22 countries were smiling when they do their job, so you can only imagine how much smiling I have been doing since we started this exercise.

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RIMPAC 2014: From My Maritime Perspective