Vice Adm. Jung Ho-sub, Republic of Korea Navy fleet commander, speaks with Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas Jr., U.S. 7th Fleet commander aboard USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19). (U.S. Navy/MC1 Joshua Karsten)

BUSAN, Republic of Korea - U.S. Seventh Fleet leaders strengthened their partnership with the Republic of Korea (ROK) during the recent exercise Key Resolve 2014 (KR14) from February 24 to March 6, 2014.

KR14 is one of two combined and joint computer-assisted, command and control exercises held each year with ROK forces. The exercise highlighted the longstanding enduring partnership and teamwork between the U.S. and ROK, while maintaining combat capabilities for a host of contingencies to ensure peace and security in the region.

Vice Adm. Robert L. Thomas Jr., commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, serves as the naval component commander for ROK and U.S. Navy forces during command and control exercises. During Key Resolve the operational commanders for each branch of service rehearse defensive scenarios aimed at protecting and defending the Korean Peninsula.

"Key Resolve helps link the U.S. and ROK navies in our tactics, techniques, procedures and communications. We want to become more of a combined naval force, be more interoperable and maximize resources," said 7th Fleet KR14 lead planner Cmdr. Thomas Moneymaker. "This exercise was important so we can build relationships with our ROK naval counterparts and bring the U.S. and ROK closer together with combined operations."

The distinguishing factor during KR14 was establishment of a combined maritime operation center.

"We took 7th Fleet personnel and fully integrated them into the ROK fleet command headquarters, which brought our forces together to sit side by side to bring the operation closer together," said Lt. Aleksandrs Kruza, 7th Fleet deputy lead planner for KR14.

The purpose of the maritime operations center was to speed up decision making and information sharing capabilities.

"KR14 improved our communication, information sharing and synchronization tremendously. It was a way to get all the components together to practice our plan and to refine any friction points to ensure we're ready to fight tonight if needed. This gave us an opportunity to hone our craft when it comes to defending Korea," Kruza added.

Approximately 5,200 U.S. forces participated in KR14, about 1,100 of which came from the Korean peninsula, joining 10,000 ROK forces for the exercise. KR14 took many months of planning using realistic yet fictitious scenarios assuming a wide range of threats, but does not reflect any real world situation or crisis.