After an intense three weeks of operations, the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) Mine Counter Measures and Dive Exercise 2014 (MCMEX14) closed with a traditional ceremonial Beat to Quarters at the Navy Museum in Auckland, New Zealand.
The MCMEX14 was hosted by the Royal New Zealand Navy and it was the first time the exercise had been coordinated from sea.
The exercise focus was to simulate the provision of humanitarian aid and disaster relief to an island location ravaged by an earthquake and tsunami and experiencing civil unrest.
Multi-national teams were tasked with surveying and clearing maritime channels of debris and suspected mines to allow safe passage for aid, through to dive operations identifying and disarming mines.
Commodore Warfare, Commodore (CDRE) Peter Leavy, was among senior naval representatives from the 14 participating WPNS nations to observe the final two days of the exercise.
CDRE Leavy said he was impressed with the scope of the exercise and pleased with the feedback from the RAN contingents and other Western Pacific nations.
“Activities like the WPNS MCMEX are very important to build tactical level mine warfare skills in the water, but equally as important to build the strong bonds and relationships between participating nations,” CDRE Leavy said.
“There has been outstanding camaraderie and teamwork displayed between the participating countries on the sports field, culturally, socially and very importantly in the water. It’s been a fantastic activity,” he said.
NZ Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral (RADM) Jack Steer, emphasised the importance of multi-national exercises between navies and the benefits to NZ in acting as host.
“The exercise has been a great success,” RADM Steer said.
“We’ve been delighted with the way the participants have come together, the way they’ve worked together and how they’ve grown together as a unit,” he said.
“We’ve now proven that we have a capability within our region that can assist nations that are in distress. That’s one of the biggest take-away’s from this activity for us.”
Australia contributed over 100 RAN personnel to the exercise from the Dive and Mine Countermeasure Force elements, including HMA Ships Gascoyne and Huon. The Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Group found the opportunity to work alongside the various nations highly beneficial from a skill-sharing and training platform.
MCMEX14 Chief of Staff, Commander (CMDR) Max Muller, expressed satisfaction over a job well done by all nations participating in the exercise.
Throughout the exercise Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) were launched regularly to survey sea beds and Dive Teams deployed to investigate.
CMDR Muller was particularly pleased Australian AUV teams were involved in discovering and identifying defensive mine relics from WWII during one Exercise mission.
“Our missions went to plan throughout the Exercise. Challenges were met and exceeded from coordination, interoperability and cultural perspectives,” CMDR Muller said.
“This exercise is a prime example of training playing a crucial role in our Navy maintaining its mission readiness, while remaining flexible for any circumstance – even locating WWII mine relics,” he said.
Press Release, March 17, 2014, 2014; Image: Australian Navy