A U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal technician jumps from an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter during mine countermeasures training as part of RIMPAC 2016. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Bryan Jackson)

SAN DIEGO - The United States Navy conducted multifaceted mine countermeasures training with six nations for over four weeks, as part of the Southern California portion of exercise Rim of the Pacific 2016, June 30 through Aug. 4.

This year’s participants in Southern California included the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, German Armed Forces, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, Mexican Navy and Chilean Navy.

“One of the purposes of RIMPAC is to increase interoperability with partner nations,” said Capt. Robert Baughman, vice commander of Task Force 177 for the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center. “Through working together, we strengthened friendships and partnerships, so if we have to conduct a mine warfare clearance operation, we are capable, adaptive partners.”

Partner nations detected and disposed of 77 training mines over the course of more than 2,000 evolutions. Included in the exercises were mine hunting, identification, clearance and disposal operations. In total, the events involved over 300 flight hours, more than 200 hours of Marine Mammal System operations, 34 helicopter cast and recovery operations, 78 operational dives, and 77 autonomous underwater vehicle evolutions.

Baughman explained the exercise was also host to several first time occurrences.

Amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) was joined by partner nation underwater mine countermeasure forces and used as an afloat forward staging base. MH-53 Sea Dragons attached to Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14 performed deck landing qualifications on Pearl Harbor’s flight deck, and Marine Mammal Systems were embarked aboard the LSD platform for the first time.

These firsts during RIMPAC SOCAL 2016 provided a distinct and unique environment and experience for participants.

“The attitude of our leadership set the tone and helped us understand that everything we are doing is unique,” said Lt. Cmdr. Rion Martin, current operations officer for Commander, Task Force 177. “No exercise is ever the same as the one before it or the one after. Our team couldn’t possibly have done more with the opportunity.”

“This has been a very robust operation.” said Cmdr. David Burke, Commander, Task Force 177 battle staff director. “Access to the seas and water ways is critical for economic productivity and a nation’s ability to sustain themselves. It is important to be able to open them up in the event they’re closed as a result of a mine warfare threat. What was great about this exercise is that the forces of multiple nations came together to execute a series of very complicated evolutions and did so in a seamless and timely manner.”

The ability to conduct effective, large scale training was the result of months of meticulous planning. Participants not only developed increased aptitude in mine warfare, but they strengthened their ability to operate together in an effective manner.

“It’s always a challenge when you bring in so many different units with different backgrounds, tactics, attitudes and procedures,” said Royal Australian Navy Lt. Cmdr. Fletcher Wall, Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet and Naval Surface Mine Warfighting Development Center Mine Warfare lead planner. “We have achieved the objective of being capable, adaptive partners. The bottom line is we ensured that everyone learned to work together to conduct a successful, real-world mine countermeasures mission. We look forward to conducting mine countermeasures training with even more partner nations in future RIMPAC exercises.”

Twenty-six nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 30 to Aug. 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2016 is the 25th exercise in the series that began in 1971.