US 5th Fleet’s Task Force 55 and commercial shipping industry representatives joined forces recently to complete exercise Lucky Mariner 19.
The annual exercise concluded March 15 and was led by the task force’s Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS) detachment designed to exercise command and control and provide standardized direction during contingency and crisis periods to protect the free flow of commerce.
“NCAGS is the touch point between military forces and commercial shipping,” said Capt. Michael Bacher, the officer-in-charge of the NCAGS Bahrain detachment. “Through exercise Lucky Mariner 19, NCAGS was able to both demonstrate its capability to NAVCENT and prepare for future exercises to be conducted on a grander scale.”
The three-week exercise consisted of classroom activities and a command post exercise at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, as well as a culminating field exercise at sea in the US 5th Fleet area of operations.
During the academics week, members of NCAGS received informational briefings from several U.S. 5th Fleet Task Forces and visited several shipping locations in Bahrain to grow their partnerships. NCAGS also met with the Middle East Navigation Aids Service, which maintains navigation aids and transmits notice to mariners in the Arabian Gulf.
To practice for potential real world situations, the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) was assigned to escort a civilian merchant vessel and conduct a medical evacuation with a tanker.
NCAGS established an expeditionary shipping coordination center to help maintain maritime domain awareness and direct the operations of the exercise. They also created a voluntary reporting gate for merchant vessels during the exercise to provide warnings of simulated threats.
Task Force 55’s NCAGS detachment is supported by the NCAGS Chicago Reserve Unit. The reservist unit is made up of strategic sealift officers, line officers, and enlisted.