MEDITERRANEAN SEA (NNS) — Algerian, Moroccan and U.S. Navy personnel honed seamanship skills during a towing exercise (TOWEX) in the Mediterranean Sea June 5 while participating in exercise Phoenix Express 2006.
The Moroccan Frigate Mohammed V and Algerian Corvette El Kirch each came alongside a utility landing craft (LCU) launched from USS Saipan (LHA 2) to pass and secure the towing hawser for a scheduled towing drill during the U.S. Naval Forces Europe/U.S. 6th Fleet combined multinational exercise.
According to their crews, LCU 1656 and LCU 1658 of Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2, based out of Little Creek, Va., prepared for the towing exercise with the foreign ships in the same way they prepare for all routine operations.
“We look at all the particulars for the event,” said Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Kevin Wilson, LCU 1656 craftmaster. “We think about safety, and we mentally run through everything we need to do. We check our manuals.”
LCU 1656 and LCU 1658 were launched from Saipan’s well deck into four- to six-foot seas. LCU 1656 carried observers, including 11 Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps Midshipmen and six foreign liaison officers for an up-close view of the TOWEX and an LCU familiarization ride. LCU 1658, joined by crew from Beach Master Unit 2 of Little Creek, Va., was designated as the vessel to be towed during the exercise.
Towing basics are generally the same for all vessels, according to Lt. j.g. Jason Rinto, ACU 2 officer in charge. Rinto’s biggest concern prior to the event was the possibility of incompatible fittings used for towing on the foreign warships.
“We adapted as we needed to, and we were constantly assessing the weather. The seas were rough, and fortunately we stayed right on the edge of the no-go criteria,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate Jason Race, LCU 1658 craftmaster.
Seaman Apprentice Dawn Thesing was on the deck of LCU 1658 during the towing exercise. “The waves were huge, it was fast and it was fun,” said Thesing. “The ships were so close, I could see everyone.
“I’ve done towing lots before in Virginia, with other LCUs,” she added, “but this was a ship and another country’s ship. It was a whole new experience for me.”
Phoenix Express 2006 is providing North African, European and U.S. naval forces with opportunities to operate together and develop productive partnerships through diverse and challenging operational scenarios.
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