PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 27, 2012) JS Amagiri (DD 154), FNS Vendemiaire (F 734), and USS Defender (MCM 2) maneuver in formation during a passing exercise off the coast of Kyushu, Japan. Training during the event included basic communications and navigation drills that helped participants to develop relationships and improve their tactical capabilities. (Photo courtesy of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)

SASEBO, Japan - USS Defender (MCM 2) joined JS Amigiri (DD 154) and FNS Vendemiaire (F 734) for a passing exercise Feb. 27, off the coast of Kyushu, Japan.

The passing exercise (PASSEX) provided a unique opportunity for a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force escort ship, a French Marine Nationale light monitoring frigate and a U.S. Navy mine countermeasures ship to operate together.

"Exercises like this ensure that when we do have to work together as allies and partners, we know how each other operate, and what each other's capabilities are," said Lieutenant Commander Todd Levant, Defender's commanding officer.

This event was the capstone of Vendemiaire’s visit to Sasebo. PASSEX events are routinely coordinated with other navies when ships are nearby and are often as simple as rendering honors as ships pass each other. Training during the event included basic communications and navigation drills that allowed the participants to enhance relations and improve their tactical capabilities.

"It’s a great that Defender and her crew were picked to participate in the evolution with France and Japan,” said Mineman Seaman Alden Curry, who was the helmsman for Defender during the exercise. “It was a great honor for me and it benefits me by improving my skills as a helmsman and really improving my skills as a Sailor."

Defender is one of four Avenger-class mine countermeasures ships forward deployed to Sasebo as part of Mine Countermeasures Squadron Seven, and Task Force 76.