By Daniel L. Kuester, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs
PORT VICTORIA, Seychelles (NNS) -- U.S. Naval War College (NWC) faculty participated in exercise Cutlass Express 2016, developing an exercise for the event designed to help African nations and stakeholders cooperate in their maritime environment.
U.S. 6th Fleet has operated Cutlass Express for five years and the exercise is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, and information-sharing practices to increase capabilities of East African and Indian Ocean nations to counter sea-based illicit activity.
NWC faculty took part in the senior leader engagement portion of the exercise that involved high-level decision makers and leaders from the 17 nations, as well as several international organizations.
At the conclusion of the exercise, senior leaders took part in a NWC war game designed to work through how affected countries would deal with the various threats.
"Cutlass Express has always been a maritime exercise that was to promote tactical and operational cooperation among the navies," said Jeff Landsman, associate professor of war gaming at NWC. "This is the first time where they had Naval War College come in and do a war game. We had the countries go through situations that had elements of terrorism, poaching, criminal elements and corruption, and we'll see if the answers they came up with hold water. With so many nations bordering the area, cooperation is important to the region's stability."
Landsman said the war game stressed the ability of African nations to cooperate.
"One of the things we are trying to do is to regionalize or to allow national maritime operational centers to start to coordinate more," he said. "And it is not just ships and helicopters, but it now involves directing those ships across various nations."
Rear Adm. Thomas Reck, vice commander of U.S. 6th Fleet, stressed that the expertise brought by NWC was a welcome addition to Cutlass Express.
"By facilitating strategic thinking in a collaborative and academic setting linked to Cutlass Express, this seminar provided by the Naval War College helps facilitate strategy development as well as build further links of cooperation within the region," he said.
The war game was also designed to help participants broaden their problem-solving skills in a maritime environment and ability to develop a course of action that supports strategic priorities and objectives.
Larry McCabe, associate professor of national security affairs at NWC, said the task of translating strategy into capabilities is difficult in some regions that have not traditionally done that.
"That connection between how strategies impact capabilities isn't always there in many countries around the world," McCabe said.
"A major goal of Cutlass Express 16, as an ongoing exercise, is to increase interoperability amongst maritime security stakeholders in the East Africa region," said Capt. Scott Ruston, the exercise director for Cutlass Express 2016. "By bringing senior leaders together, we unite a strategic-level interoperability with tactical-level operations at sea. This makes Cutlass Express a more comprehensive exercise."
Cutlass Express is one of four regional Express Series exercises facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet that focus on increasing interagency capabilities in deterring counter-piracy, counter-illicit trafficking, and other maritime threats in the waters off East Africa.
"Cutlass Express is an exercise that works with partner nations near the Horn of Africa, and some interests outside the region, to build and maintain maritime regional coordination that the countries could not achieve as individually," added Landsman.
Countries participating in Cutlass Express 2016 include Australia, Canada, Comoros, Djibouti, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as representatives from the Eastern Africa Standby Force, EU Naval Force, International Maritime Organization, and Combined Task Force 150.
Seychelles Lt. Col. Phillp Barbe said the exercise has been enlightening.
"Being an infantryman, I've found learning how the navy operates is incredibly enriching experience," he said.