Manama, Bahrain - Leaders of the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) brought the exercise to a close and highlighted the need to continue training with scenarios that are likely to occur in real life in order to keep waterways safe.
The exercise "raised the bar in terms of reality," said Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, "not in terms of some arbitrary metric, but in terms of real-world value. You couldn't just show up and declare success. You actually had to get in the water."
IMCMEX, which ended April 26, featured international naval and civilian maritime forces from more than 30 nations spanning six continents training together across the Middle East.
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) organized and led IMCMEX. NAVCENT leads U.S. Navy and afloat Marine Corps forces across the more than 2.5 million square miles of ocean in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
Participants focused on maritime security from the port of origin to the port of arrival and included scenarios ranging from mine countermeasures, infrastructure protection and maritime security operations in support of civilian shipping.
"What's important to each of our nations is the free flow of commerce," said Donegan. "We did raise the bar, and we did it in a way that will be a springboard for next year and the years after that."
More than 4,000 civilian and military personnel, ashore and aboard more than 30 ships, participated the Fleet Tactical Exercise (FTX) portion of IMCMEX, which focused on shipboard, air, and undersea training and conducting port and maritime security operations.
FTX operations included mine countermeasures, diving operations, small-boat exercises, maritime security operations coordinated with industrial and commercial shipping, unmanned underwater vehicle operations, and port clearance.
The FTX demonstrated new technologies, such as unmanned underwater vehicles, and the sealift capabilities of the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Choctaw County and the afloat forward staging base USS Ponce, equipped with the U.S. Navy's only operational laser weapon system.
During the FTX, 161 mine-like shapes were dropped in the water as practice aids for mine countermeasures. Using the wide array of technology and expertise among the partner nations, participants found and retrieved all of them.
Industry participation in this year's IMCMEX was the largest it has ever been, with collaboration and training between industry representatives and 11 merchant and commercial vessels, including cruise ships HMS Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2.
IMCMEX began April 4 with a symposium in Bahrain on Maritime Infrastructure Protection, bringing together governments, militaries and industry to discuss how to best provide the necessary foundation of security that supports unrestricted access to the vital maritime infrastructure critical to regional and global economies.
Leaders from 13 participating nations, together with the U.S. Naval War College and U.S. Joint Staff, also spent time thinking through notional threats and developing plans to counter and mitigate those notional threats during the Command Post Exercise.
"We've tried a number of things this year that we haven't tried in the past," said Commodore William Warrender, Royal Navy, Combined Maritime Forces deputy commander and leader of the exercise, as he thanked multinational partners for their robust participation and ambition in this year's IMCMEX during the exercise closing ceremony. "I hope you got as much out of this exercise as I did."