U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 55 and representatives from the commercial shipping industry completed exercise Lucky Mariner 19, March 15.
Lucky Mariner is an annual exercise led by the task force’s Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS) detachment designed to exercise command and control and provide standardized direction during contingency and crisis periods to protect the free flow of commerce.
“NCAGS is the touch point between military forces and commercial shipping,” said Capt. Michael Bacher, the officer-in-charge of the NCAGS Bahrain detachment. “Through exercise Lucky Mariner 19, NCAGS was able to both demonstrate its capability to NAVCENT and prepare for future exercises to be conducted on a grander scale.”
The three-week exercise consisted of classroom activities and a command post exercise at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, as well as a culminating field exercise at sea in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
During the academics week, members of NCAGS received informational briefings from several U.S. 5th Fleet Task Forces and visited several shipping locations in Bahrain to grow their partnerships. NCAGS also met with the Middle East Navigation Aids Service, which maintains navigation aids and transmits notice to mariners in the Arabian Gulf.
To practice for potential real world situations, the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) was assigned to escort a civilian merchant vessel and conduct a medical evacuation with a tanker.
NCAGS established an expeditionary shipping coordination center to help maintain maritime domain awareness and direct the operations of the exercise. They also created a voluntary reporting gate for merchant vessels during the exercise to provide warnings of simulated threats.
Task Force 55’s NCAGS detachment is supported by the NCAGS Chicago Reserve Unit. The reservist unit is made up of strategic sealift officers, line officers, and enlisted.
The mission of NCAGS is to assist maritime component commanders by managing risk through providing a real-time maritime merchant shipping picture, ensuring the safe passage of merchant shipping in contingency and crisis, and de-conflicting naval forces and merchant movements in the maritime domain.
A permanent NCAGS element was established at U.S. 5th Fleet in 2009 following a rise in piracy to protect the free flow of commerce. U.S. 5th Fleet is the only fleet with a permanent NCAGS force.
“With over 90% of the World’s trade transported across the maritime commons, protection of sea lanes of communication and coordination with maritime industry is key to economic success,” said Lee Stuart, the program manager for NCAGS at U.S. Fleet Forces. “The Bahrain Detachment is a model of success in taking policy and doctrine and converting into action. The relationships developed with industry and partner nations will have positive impacts for years to come.”