Members of US Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 (EODMU 8) are participating in the international naval force exercise Open Spirit 2014, which kicked off its active phase in the Irbe Strait and the waters off the western Latvia coast, May 12.
Held annually in one of the Baltic States, exercise participants hone their explosive ordance search and disposal skills coming together to clear Baltic Sea shipping routes, communication lines and fishing areas of ordnance left over from World Wars I and II.
“This year we found a specific objective to accomplish, a World War II German freighter that was carrying large mines,” said Lt. Mikel Rodriguez, from the Mine Counter-Measures Company Command. “Our objective is to clear as much of it as we can. We are going to go and verify first, see what we encounter, and operate from there.”
EODMU 8’s Open Spirit role will be to assist with and conduct diving operations with NATO allies and partners. Reconnaissance marking of the site will take place first; followed by rigging and towing of the ordnance that will then be moved to a designated safe zone and detonated.
The naval explosive ordnance disposal team will consist of divers from Latvia, Estonia, Canada and Poland. According to Rodriguez, Open Spirit is an opportunity to improve cooperation and tactics, fostering partnerships between the participating countries.
“Interoperability is key, especially with our NATO allies and partners,” said Rodriguez. “It’s absolutely critical, because we frequently rely on their regional expertise here in Europe, their logistics and their support.”
Rodriquez said that along with breaking down the language and military cultural barriers that allow the U.S. to operate together more proficiently with allies and partners, he hopes his unit will become even more capable at executing mission objectives.
Exercise Open Spirit 2014 is led by Latvian Naval Force Flotilla, consisting of 26 ships and five dive teams from 13 countries; two Maritime Mine Counter-Measure units, the Baltic Naval Squadron (BALTRON) and the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1).
EODMU 8 provides an operational explosive ordnance disposal capability to locate, identify, render safe, recover, field evaluate, and dispose of all explosive ordnance as directed by Commander, Task Force 68.
Press Release, May 13, 2014; Image: US Navy