USS Pioneer (MCM 9) and USS Patriot (MCM 7) sail in formation with JS Awaji (MSC 304) during MIWEX 2JA. (JMSDF photo)

SASEBO, Japan - Mine warfare forces from the U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) completed Mine Warfare Exercise (MIWEX) 2JA 2020 in Mutsu Bay, Japan, July 23.

"This year's MIWEX 2JA was another rewarding exercise with our Japanese partners," said Capt. Derek Brady, commodore of Mine Countermeasures Squadron 7. "The dedication of all who were involved was readily apparent; from the staffs, to the ships, and the sailors of both the U.S. Navy and JMSDF. Everyone worked well together and we remain ready to execute our mission if needed."

MIWEX 2JA is an annual bilateral exercise held between the U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to strengthen interoperability and increase proficiencies in mine countermeasure operations.

“The annual bilateral exercise 2JA was extremely successful,” said Lt. Cmdr. Meagan Makarenko, commanding officer of USS Pioneer (MCM 9). “We demonstrated interoperability between units at the tactical level as well as staff integration.”

U.S. Navy and JMSDF forces trained by deploying inert training mines to designated areas and then individual units were tasked by their staff to sweep the inert mines with mechanical gear or hunt the inert mines with under water detection and neutralization systems.

Mine countermeasures ships utilized various tools and strategies to find and neutralize mines. The ships deployed mechanical sweep gear to cut inert moored mines. They deployed under water technology to enhance their mine hunting systems capabilities of mine detection. They utilized their sonar to detect and classify potential inert bottom mines. They also flew underwater drones to provide visual identification of inert bottom mines and simulated prosecuting those inert mines.

“2JA was a phenomenal opportunity to hone the critical warfighting skills for our crews and enhance our alliance with Japan at the tactical level,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Volkle, commanding officer of USS Patriot (MCM 7). “The crew flexed both tactical procedures and casualty response throughout the combat systems, doggedly pursuing solutions to technical problems and keeping Patriot in the fight.”

In addition to the operations of complex mine countermeasure systems, minemen had to resolve any issues or “casualty” that arose in those systems throughout the exercise. minemen worked day and night to keep their systems operational in order to continually find and neutralizing mines.

“We fought against multiple casualties and were still able to conduct our mission,” said Mineman 2nd Class Peter Kwak, aboard USS Patriot (MCM 7). “It was a great learning experience and I could not have done it without the crew. During this exercise I really saw the value of casualty control and this experience really showed me what it is like to be a true mineman at sea.”

Both U.S. Navy mine countermeasures ships USS Patriot (MCM 7) and USS Pioneer (MCM 9) flew their mine neutralization vehicles on and simulated prosecuting numerous inert bottom mines during the exercise.

“The crew of USS Pioneer gained a deeper insight into mine hunting and neutralization tactics and were able to hone their mine warfare skills,” said Makarenko. “We look forward to further joint exercises with our JMSDF counterparts.”

JMSDF Mine Division 3 and U.S. Navy Commander, Mine Countermeasures Squadron 7 worked together to achieve a high level of clearance during the exercise, greatly improving both force’s mine countermeasure proficiencies.

"The U.S. Navy is always looking to strengthen our partnership with Japan and increase our collective maritime defense capabilities," said Brady. "Through our combined training exercises and enduring presence, we continue to strive for peace and security in the region."

MIWEX 2JA included a photo exercise and ended with passing exercise after completing the successful training operation. JMSDF and U.S. Navy forces continue to strengthen their partnership and mine countermeasure proficiencies despite the challenges of COVID-19, and continue to preserve maritime freedom and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

Mineman 3rd Class Jacob Scott lowers a mine neutralization vehicle (MNV) into the water from USS Pioneer (MCM 9) during MIWEX 2JA. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Caleb Strong)

An MNV is lowered into the water from USS Pioneer (MCM 9) during MIWEX 2JA. (U.S. Navy/DC1 Joseph Donaldson)

Sailors aboard USS Pioneer (MCM 9) watch as they pass JS Uraga (MST 463) and JS Bungo (MST 464) upon conclusion of MIWEX 2JA. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Caleb Strong)