“Ships” in the Baltic

By Rear Adm. Rick Snyder
Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2

A rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) from USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79), approaches the German Brandenburg class frigate Mecklenburg-Vorpommern during their underway for Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2014.

A rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) from USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79), approaches the German Brandenburg class frigate Mecklenburg-Vorpommern during their underway for Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2014.

Last week, you read Vice Adm. Davidson’s post about the start of Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2014. I’d like to follow up with my thoughts about how it went.

It has been said that in the Navy, it’s important to recognize the importance of “ships” – but not just warships. We must also build and maintain partnerships, relationships, and friendships. That statement was clearly demonstrated in the Baltic Sea over the past two weeks.

BALTOPS 2014, the largest annual maritime exercise in the Baltic Sea, and now in its 42nd year, brought together 28 ships and two submarines from 14 countries and NATO. We exercised and operated together for almost two weeks, sending a powerful and visible signal of our combined effectiveness and ability to work together.  BALTOPS 2014 demonstrated our commitment to maritime security and regional stability with partners and allies in a key region.

It was a busy two weeks. We conducted practice boardings of cooperative merchant shipping with boarding teams from four nations. We exercised cooperative air defense against, and with, land based tactical aircraft from the air forces of three nations. We came together in coordinated anti-submarine warfare with U.S. and partner ships, submarines, helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft. We conducted a mine detonation demonstration to drive home the importance of mine warfare, a major focus of this year’s exercise. Two mine countermeasure groups worked together to hunt, sweep and clear the sea lanes, ensuring access. Finally, we executed two days of tactical integration in a fictional scenario.

Coalition forces observe a planned mine detonation during Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2014.

Coalition forces observe a planned mine detonation during Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2014.

Bringing a diverse, talented and experienced group of Sailors together allowed everyone to demonstrate their unique skill set and expertise, forming an unwavering bond amongst allied and partner nations.

Two things struck me most – the capabilities of our partners and allies, and their willingness to be part of the team; and the Sailors from every nation and their leadership.

I first participated in BALTOPS in 1993. From my perspective as a helo pilot embarked on a frigate, it was a handful of ships from a few countries. We conducted basic seamanship events and some limited tactical exercises. This year, I was awe struck by the dramatic increase in the level of competence and professionalism demonstrated across the board, by every unit and every country, in nearly 100 sophisticated, complex, and coordinated events. We’ve come a long way as partners and allies committed to maritime security. I am convinced that commitment will be enduring.

I saw leadership in action everywhere and at every level. At the top, Brigadier General Ola Truedsson, a Swedish Naval Officer was the Deputy Commander of BALTOPS 2014. But it didn’t stop there; we had outstanding commanding officers, junior officers leading boarding and watch teams, and enlisted Sailors at all ranks and from all nations executing their mission with passion and excellence.

As I visited the Sailors from all 14 participating countries and NATO, I saw firsthand their pride and dedication to the mission, partnerships and security.

These men and women are the driving force behind meeting today’s need for interoperability, enhanced partnerships and maintaining regional stability. Their knowledge, skill set and determination are the factors of success in an ever changing global environment.

BALTOPS 2014 had 30 ships at sea, and that’s important. We operated and exercised together. Equally as important, we strengthened the three “ships” which underscore operating as a team in support of maritime security and regional stability – partnerships, relationships, and friendships.

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“Ships” in the Baltic