By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Flewellyn, USS Mustin Public Affairs
TIMOR SEA (NNS) -- The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) participated in a surface-action-group versus surface-action-group (SAG vs SAG) exercise with the Royal New Zealand Navy Anzac-class Frigate HMNZS Te Kaha (F 77) during exercise Talisman Sabre 2015 (TS 15), July 12-17.
The purpose of a SAG vs SAG exercise is to practice how surface combatants would work together to engage potential enemy surface combatants. During the exercise Mustin and Te Kaha worked together against the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62).
"This exercise gives us a valuable opportunity to integrate with partner nations," said Lt. Jonathon Murray, Mustin's operations officer. "It provides us with the chance to strengthen interoperability, build relationships, and better prepares all involved to respond to potential situations in the region."
Integrating two different nation's navies can be challenging, however, especially during a complicated exercise like SAG vs SAG.
"Although we have a lot of the same equipment, doctrine and procedures, there are many differences in the way we think, communicate and therefore do business," said Lt. Cmdr. Alexandra Haughey, Te Kaha's operations officer. "We all want the same outcome so these challenges are overcome by being flexible and adaptable in the short term, and a willingness to learn from experience in the long term."
The SAG vs SAG was conducted as part of TS 15, a biennial exercise that provides an opportunity for nearly 30,000 U.S. and Australian Defence Forces to conduct operations in a combined, joint, and interagency environment that will increase both countries' ability to plan and execute a full range of operations from combat missions to humanitarian assistance efforts.
"I coordinated with fixed and rotary wing aircraft to properly identify track and engage simulated combatant targets," said Operations Specialist 1st Class Matthew Choi. "It was a bit challenging because we had to adjust our procedures to successfully integrate with our partner nations."
The interoperability between the partner nations was highlighted during a real world-world emergency, when two members of Te Kaha's crew required medical evacuations to George Washington.
"In both cases, at very short notice, the patients were transferred to George Washington by helicopter," said Haughey. "Te Kaha's helicopter transported the first patient...Mustin assisted with the helicopter transfer in the second. The outcome was that the personnel received the required medical attention, are now safe, and Te Kaha was able to continue with our mission in support of exercise objectives."
"Exercises like these build relationships, capabilities, understanding and the confidence that if required, these partnerships would be able to work together to respond to any stability or security issues in the region," said Haughey.
Te Kaha is homeported in Auckland, New Zealand, and is underway to participate in TS 15.
Mustin is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.