Australian Navy Joins USS Blue Ridge Crew for TS11

More than 70 military and civilian Australian Defence personnel recently joined their US counterparts aboard the Seventh Fleet Flagship USS Blue Ridge (CAPT Daniel Grieco, USN) for the 2011 running of Exercise Talisman Sabre (TS11).

Navy, Army and Air Force personnel from all across the country came together with US forces aboard Blue Ridge to form the Joint Headquarters for Commander Combined Task Force (CTF) 660, under Commander Seventh Fleet, VADM Scott Van Buskirk, USN. Backing the Commander as Deputy was the newly appointment Deputy Chief of Joint Operations, RADM David Johnston.

Normally working in Navy Workforce Planning, CMDR Phillip Henry took part in the exercise as a member of an operational planning team.

We worked within the Plans branch looking ahead for where our operational plan may have needed revising in order to ensure we met the CTF mission,” said CMDR Henry.

TS11 was a fantastic opportunity for members of the ADF to work alongside one of our closest allies, and working in the CTF 660 allowed ADF members to play key roles in Command of the operation.”

CAPT Grant Prendergast, from Headquarters 1st Division in Brisbane, joined the team playing in the area of liaison between military and civilian operations.

“Having been on several combined exercises, TS11 was interesting to see how a combined headquarters works, especially at sea,” said CAPT Prendergast.

“It was great working with our US counterparts – we were able to exchange ideas and learn from each other’s experiences. I was really impressed by their level of professionalism and there commitment to their job.”

FLTLT Sarelle Woodward, who usually fights the legal bushfires at RAAF Base Wagga, stepped into the exercise world as a JAG or Judge Advocate General.

Working in a Combined Task Force with the US has been an opportunity to learn not only a different dialect of English”, she laughs, “but also the difference in domestic law and the American interpretation of international law.”

Although our US counterparts are a lot more PowerPoint focused – everything needs to be reported on a ‘slide’ – they are very effective in their procedures.

CMDR Henry joked, “I think the US personnel may have learnt from the Aussies how to get things done without PowerPoint.”

Of course, for our Army and Air Force friends, going to sea was a whole other challenge to contend with, especially aboard another country’s ship.

It’s not everyday that you get to sail on a US Navy Command Flagship and brief a three-star Admiral commanding the US Seventh Fleet,” said CAPT Prendergast. “The food wasn’t too bad, but I won’t miss it.”

“I really didn’t like the sea sickness,” said FLTLT Woodward as she squirmed. “And I’m really looking forward to a home cooked meal.

Although the time on board Blue Ridge and playing in the exercise has been a challenge, the benefits have been too good an opportunity to miss.

“One of the understated benefits of the exercise is the opportunity to expand our professional networks by the close interaction with US personnel – its been a professionally rewarding time,” said CMDR Henry.

And the best thing the Americans learnt from the Aussies, as FLTLT Woodward simply put it, was “slang!”


Source: navy, August 2, 2011;