MTOG building relationships, contributing to maritime safety and security

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Navy News / April 12, 2017

By MTOG and Lieutenant-Commander Kelly Williamson

The Royal Canadian Navy’s Maritime Tactical Operations Group (MTOG) is increasingly engaged in international capacity building activities as a means of fostering relationships, encouraging mutual understanding and contributing to maritime safety and security across the globe. MTOG recently completed a series of activities in Tunisia, Liberia and Sierra Leone as part of the navy’s engagement strategy.

 “Capacity building is important to MTOG because, not only does it give our operators rare and unique opportunities to be exposed to new cultures while developing their leadership and instructional skills, but it also allows the unit to contribute to the stabilization and development of the countries we visit,” said Lieutenant-Commander Will Lund, MTOG’s Commanding Officer. “At an individual level, MTOG operators feel like they are making a difference in the world.”

In late February, the MTOG detachment embarked in HMCS St. John’s conducted a week of training alongside the 51st and 52nd Regiments Commandos Marines (RCM) of the Tunisian Navy in Bizerte, Tunisia. The training provided sailors from both countries with a chance to acquire knowledge, establish relationships and hone their skills.

 “By noon on the first day of training, it was clear that we had a lot more in common than we initially thought,” said Lieutenant (Navy) Jacob Killawee. “Like MTOG, the RCM sailors come from a variety of backgrounds like marine engineers, logistics and operations personnel, and go through a selection process before they join their specialized regiments.”

To help break the ice, the first day of training with the Tunisians focused on small arms training. Sailors from both countries took turns demonstrating weapons handling drills to build the speed and accuracy that operators from all countries require when conducting maritime interdiction operations in complex and confined environments onboard ships at sea.

As the week progressed, MTOG and the RCM transitioned from the range to other training events including close-quarter battle (CQB), insertion and extraction techniques using high speed rigid-hull inflatable boats, and rappelling. During the CQB training, sailors reviewed procedures on how to safely clear room and confined spaces on ships. During insert and extract drills, sailors enhanced their ability to quickly insert and extract from target vessels.

Sailors learned that while tactics, techniques and procedures between countries may differ, the principals on why and how the teams conduct their operations was consistent. Both groups found common ground and were able to develop a shared understanding that contributed to mission success.

In March, MTOG deployed two detachments, one to Monrovia, Liberia, the other to Freetown, Sierra Leone, in support of Obangame Express 17, a U.S. Naval Forces Africa-led training event with participants from more than 20 nations with an interest in West African maritime security.  In Monrovia, the MTOG team worked as mentors to the Liberian Coast Guard Boarding Team, and in Sierra Leone MTOG mentored the Joint Maritime Committee Fisheries Inspection and Boarding Team.

MTOG worked in both countries to enhance partner capabilities in planning, command and control, tactical movement and combined operations with foreign nations. Training commenced ashore and progressed into more complex at-sea scenarios leveraging the presence of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Moncton in Liberia and HMCS Summerside in Sierra Leone, also supporting Obangame Express 17.

“It’s a capability we’re excited to employ,” said LCdr Lund. “It’s great to be able to send my operators out to learn from and mentor maritime security partners from across the globe. Not only does it enhance our situational awareness with respect to the challenges associated with maritime security in different environments, we’re able to share knowledge and experiences that can be used by are partners to help refine and enhance their own operational effects.”

He added, “Working with other nations enables us, in our uniquely Canadian way, to have a positive impact in regions where democracy and stability are still new and relatively fragile. It’s also an opportunity for us to be exposed to different ideas and ways of doing business. Not only do the countries we work with benefit from the engagement, we learn a lot as well.”