PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines -- The U.S. Navy, Philippine Navy, and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) began Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Sama Sama with an opening ceremony in Puerto Princesa, Oct. 14.
This is the third iteration of MTA Sama Sama, a maritime exercise designed to promote regional security cooperation, maintain and strengthen maritime partnerships, and enhance maritime interoperability.
This is the first year the JMSDF will participate, alongside U.S. and Philippine naval counterparts.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander of Logistics Group Western Pacific, who oversees security cooperation for the U.S. Navy in Southeast Asia, said that Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama demonstrated an evolution toward multilateral training and networked security.
"We are strongest when we sail together" said Tynch. "MTA Sama Sama gives us a great chance to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends, partners, and allies, the Philippine Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. We train together, so that together we can face threats to maritime security."
The exercise will consist of both shore-based and at-sea activities designed to allow participating navies to undertake complex maritime training utilizing diverse naval platforms and operating areas.
Shore phase events will include a series of subject matter expert exchanges on a range of naval capabilities, including maritime domain awareness, force protection, medical care, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, explosive ordnance disposal, dive and salvage operations, engineering, aviation, and visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) operations.
The at-sea phase will include VBSS drills, division tactics, a search and rescue exercise, helicopter deck landing qualifications, anti-air and surface warfare tracking, and vessel of interest tracking.
"Any time we can execute realistic, combined scenarios with our partners, it goes a long to make us better and more effective together," said Capt. Ann McCann, deputy commodore of Destroyer Squadron 7. "MTA gives use the perfect opportunity to conduct knowledge exchanges, then take that knowledge to sea, where we can put it into practice together."
Participating U.S. Navy assets include the littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8), the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3), the Safeguard-class salvage ship USNS Salvor (ARS 52), the Legend-class cutter USCG Stratton (VMSL 752) and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft.
Montgomery, an Independence-variant littoral combat ship, is on a rotational deployment to the Indo-Pacific area of operations. The ship visited Davao City in July 2019.
MTA Sama Sama builds upon other maritime engagements with the Philippines including Pacific Partnership, the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission, Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), which involves more than a dozen partner nations, Balikatan, ADMM-Plus (Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers’ Meeting Maritime Security Exercise), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-U.S. Maritime Exercise (AUMX), along with other military engagements and exchanges. These engagements serve to enhance information sharing and coordination and support long-term regional cooperation.
As U.S. 7th Fleet's executive agent for theater security cooperation in South and Southeast Asia, Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific/Task Force 73 and Destroyer Squadron 7 conduct advanced planning, organize resources, and directly support the execution of CARAT and other engagements in the region.