New MARPAC Commander gets down to business at RIMPAC

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Navy News / July 25, 2018

By Peter Mallett

Rear-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie’s first order of business as the new Commander of Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) was to fly to Hawaii and take up post as Deputy Commander of the Combined Task Force for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military exercise.

Now underway, RIMPAC is a biennial land, air and sea military exercise carried out in and around the waters of Hawaii and Southern California, involving 25,000 military personnel from 25 nations. Canada’s armed forces have substantial assets and personnel in the 26th edition of the exercise, including Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships Vancouver, Ottawa, Yellowknife and Whitehorse, all Pacific fleet warships under RAdm Auchterlonie’s command.

“It’s very exciting to be involved in this capacity – this is the biggest maritime exercise in the world,” he said. “Canada, along with the United States and Australia, are RIMPAC’s founding members, and RIMPAC provides a great opportunity for Canadian Armed Forces members to work with partners from around the globe.”

In his RIMPAC role, RAdm Auchterlonie works closely with Vice-Admiral John Alexander, Commander U.S. Third Fleet, to co-ordinate the multiple components of the Combined Task Force. One of the main goals of RIMPAC is to foster and sustain those cooperative relationships which play a role in helping to ensure the safety and security of sea lanes and the world’s interconnected oceans.

This year’s exercise theme is Capable, Adaptive Partners. Building on that premise, drills span the scope of operations from disaster relief and maritime security operations to sea control in today’s complex war-fighting landscape.

“If you are a young sailor onboard a ship, as I once was, the experience is a great one. They are getting a lot of at-sea experience while learning how to coordinate in a multinational environment,” said RAdm Auchterlonie.

The training program is vast: sailors, soldiers and aviators from all nations will hone their gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defence skills, as well as their abilities in amphibious, counter-piracy, mine clearance, explosive ordnance disposal, diving and salvage operations.

Making its debut at RIMPAC this year is the Royal Canadian Navy’s newly leased supply ship Motor Vessel Asterix.

Also involved are approximately 170 members from the Canadian Army’s 2nd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment, who joined the U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton, Calif., for AAV-P7/A1 assault amphibious vehicle (AAV) familiarization.

“Learning the capabilities and limitations of the AAV and understanding how the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who specialize in amphibious operations, operate in their environment, and to have them share their practices and expertise with us has been a great experience for myself and those who took part in the training,” said Lieutenant Jacob Simard of the Canadian Army. 

The Canadian contingent was rounded out with 75 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, including a CP-140 maritime patrol aircraft and mission support centre, plus additional Canadian Armed Forces personnel for a national command and support team.

RAdm Auchterlonie says the coordination of RIMPAC has “gotten off to a smooth start”, but the reality of military exercises is not everything always goes as planned. Learning how to react quickly and appropriately to the unexpected is a fundamental part of the training, he noted.

He added that the erupting Kilauea volcano 185 kilometres away and downwind from operations in Pearl Harbor has a potential to become an unknown “X-factor” in the exercise. While the volcano is not impacting day-to-day operations, eruptions and seismic activity are being monitored daily.

Should a real-life emergency develop in the region, RAdm Auchterlonie says participants are well versed and well equipped to respond.

The exercise concludes August 2, 2018.

Key Canadian appointments at RIMPAC

Other key Canadian appointments in the RIMPAC leadership team are: Captain (Navy) Matthew Coates, Deputy Commander Combined Maritime Component Command; Colonel Michael Atkins, Deputy Commander Combined Air Component Command; Colonel Dennis O’Reilly, Combined Air Operations Centre Director; and Captain (Navy) Matthew Bowen, Third Fleet Deputy Exercise Director.

The three phases of RIMPAC

The Harbour Phase is designed to build professional and personal relationships between military members from other nations. They meet face-to-face for briefings, training and detailed planning. The aim is to allow participants to get to know their exercise colleagues; finalize details of plans; and lay the foundation for professional and successful operations.

The Force Integration Phase involves a structured and detailed training program. It develops the skills of the units that take part. It is aimed at enabling participants to operate at the task force level. It exercises each nation’s ability to operate in a robust command and control setting with other nations. This phase also includes a variety of live training at sea, underwater, on the ground, and in the air.

The Free Play Phase tests military unit skills during a scenario. Component commanders and subordinate units respond to scenarios that become more and more intense. These include realistic situations that nations could face in the Pacific Rim. As a result, military units and members that take part experience challenging, full-spectrum operations. These cover surface, submarine, air and land threats.


Courtesy of Lookout