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NEWS | Aug. 23, 2016

Southeast Asian Navies Come Together for Maritime Operations Training in Singapore

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Madailein Abbott

SINGAPORE -- The Naval War College and Naval Postgraduate School partnered with Task Force 73 to host a maritime operations training symposium in Singapore Aug. 15-21.

The symposium brought liaison officers from partner navies across Southeast Asia together for a week of information sharing and collaboration. It preceded the multilateral exercise Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) that began Aug. 22 in Singapore featuring nine regional partner nations.

"This week starts the Maritime Operations Center (MOC) training, with a focus on maritime domain awareness (MDA)," said Lt. Cmdr. Jeremy Crestetto, assistant chief of staff for Theatre Security Cooperation at Task Force 73. "We have three professors here with us from the Navy War College and Naval Postgraduate School teaching basic maritime operation center concepts, how we have developed maritime domain awareness in the United States Navy, and how we can take those lessons and apply them to our SEACAT exercise next week."

The training symposium allowed officers from partner nations to share their experiences of working in a maritime operations center, and the challenges of creating a common operational picture that is often required for real-world contingency operations and exercises like SEACAT.

Focusing on topics such as human trafficking, drug smuggling and piracy, SEACAT brings together liaison officers (LNOs) from multiple countries in Southeast Asia to promote regional cooperation and to share maritime security challenges. This year's participants include the United States, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and new participants Bangladesh and Cambodia.

"The main goal of this training and next week's exercise is information sharing," said Crestetto. "It's about all of the representatives from the different nations looking at common threats and deciding how to act on them, and to share how each of us would respond. In this way we learn about each other and ourselves, and can apply that knowledge to future operations."

During the SEACAT exercise, LNOs will receive simulated reports of suspect vessels in the Straits of Singapore and Malacca, the Andaman Sea or the South China Sea. After sharing information from all available sources, such as Singapore's Information Fusion Centre, Malaysia's International Maritime Bureau, or the Philippines' Coast Watch System, the LNOs will develop and implement response plans during a concurrent field training exercise. Based on the situation, aircraft and ships from participating navies will investigate and conduct on-scene boarding as necessary.

"It's important for us to be ready for these kinds of possibilities and to have a plan to combat them," said Crestetto. "These possible threats don't just affect one country, it affects all of us."

Commander, Task Force 73 and Destroyer Squadron 7 staff conduct advanced planning, organize resources and directly support the execution of maritime exercises such as SEACAT, the bilateral Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series, and the Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) with Vietnam.

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