Divers from the US, German and Dutch navies concluded several days of expeditionary mine countermeasures (ExMCM) training as part of exercise Bold Alligator 2017 (BA17).
The combined ExMCM force had members from the Royal Netherlands Navy Defense Dive Group Very Shallow Water (VSW) Dive Platoon, German Navy Mine Clearance Diving Company and U.S. Navy ExMCM Company 202, a combined unit comprised of Sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 2 MCM platoon, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2 unmanned systems platoon and the Naval Oceanographic Mine Warfare Center (NOMWC) post-mission analysis cell.
“Our mission was to clear the shallow, littoral waters consisting of three boat lanes that were 500 yards wide by three nautical miles long of any possible mines laid by simulated enemy forces,” Collier said. “We were able to complete all our taskings and meet our timeline of three days while integrating with the Dutch and German navies. Operationally, it was a huge success.”
During the three-day training evolution, the ExMCM force was tasked to clear a path for amphibious forces to conduct an amphibious assault on the beach. The three-day training evolution evaluated the ExMCM force’s ability to execute a detect-to-engage sequence. U.S. and Dutch teams used unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) side-scan sonar to find potential mine-like objects before sending out the Dutch VSW divers or the U.S. Seabotix Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) to confirm whether the objects were mines.
“Being able to take part in an exercise in a proper amphibious scenario with real ships and equipment with real Marines landing ashore has been very beneficial,” said Netherlands Marine Corps Capt. Rick In De Braekt, officer in charge of the Royal Netherlands Navy VSW platoon. “We were lucky to be able to work with our U.S. counterparts because there is a lot of knowledge that we have been able to exchange during the exercise. Our units have a lot of unique lessons that have been learned over time, so we are all leaving here as more capable units.”
EOD Group (EODGRU) 2, headquartered at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach, oversees all East Coast-based Navy EOD mobile units, including one forward-deployed mobile unit in Spain, as well as EOD Expeditionary Support Unit (EODESU) 2, EOD Training and Evaluation Unit (EODTEU) 2 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2.
BA17 is a live, events-driven exercise featuring U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and partner nation forces. The exercise provides the Navy and Marine Corps team tactical level training for amphibious operations which are core requirement to maritime power projection.
The exercise incorporates amphibious, carrier strike group, air wing and ExMCM operations to provide a rigorous training environment for the combined forces.
“Even with the modification in breadth, BA17 has been a great opportunity for us to practice ExMCM in a joint operational environment,” said Lt. Mike Collier, officer in charge of ExMCM Company 202.
The scope of the exercise was modified because of U.S. and partner nation efforts in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.