U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY -- As the United States continues to reaffirm their commitment to allied forces working around the globe, Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are doing their part to help strengthen military-to-military relationships with partner nations.
One way the 11th MEU and Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island make a difference is through Exercise Cougar Voyage 15, which occurred during the end of September and early October. Cougar Voyage is a recurring exercise aimed to strengthen proficiencies, promote interoperability and increase military-to-military relationships to support long-term regional security and stability in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
Cougar Voyage is a Commander, U.S. Navy Central Command led exercise conducted to increase interoperability between allied forces and partner nations. During the exercise, U.S. forces from the 11th MEU and Makin Island conducted a series of training events with military forces from the United Kingdom and Kuwait.
“This exercise will help us better enhance our capabilities in more than a few ways,” said Capt. Charles Watt, officer-in-charge of the 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, 11th MEU, and action officer for Cougar Voyage. “It will better enhance our joint planning but it will mainly enhance our ability to support in a multitude of circumstances and contexts.”
The exercise has two primary goals. First, participating forces aim to enhance their mutual capabilities and collective abilities. Second, the exercise familiarizes personnel from each specialty areas with counterparts from participating nations, and facilitates a common understanding and common rapport for air, sea and land operations.
Phase one of the exercise focuses on communication and familiarization with respect to air operations. This exercise is the first time many of the pilots fly and land on foreign military ships. Forces also conduct exercises aboard ships to hone basic skills and create further interaction.
“Our pilots are getting a lot out of this training,” said Watt. “By the time this is over, most of our pilots will be qualified to land on British ships, which allows more flexibility for us in the future if we ever need to support a mission from there.”
Phase two of the exercise concentrates primarily on executing missions. The 11th MEU and other participating forces conduct numerous operations including maritime security operations (MSO), visit board search and seizure (VBSS) procedures, surface maneuver exercises and amphibious assault exercises.
Marines from the 11th MEU are deployed with the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group as a flexible, adaptable and persistent force in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.