USS MOUNT WHITNEY, Mediterranean Sea — Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilian maritime professionals embarked aboard USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) for the planning phase of Austere Challenge 2009 (AC-09).
"Exercising our ability to function as a joint maritime component command is critical to mission success across the full spectrum of military operations," said Navy Vice Adm. Bruce Clingan, Commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet. "This training environment helps to sharpen our planning processes, enhance our proficiency at the operational level of war, and ensure we are prepared to respond to any crisis."
There are two phases of AC-09; the current planning phase and a second phase later this spring, where the Joint Forces Maritime Component Command (JFMCC) will position theater assets and command forces through simulated operations.
"I am helping to bring an Army perspective to the joint maritime staff," said Maj. Rocky Lobash, U.S. Army Europe. "I now have a greater appreciation for how a Navy staff approaches the operational picture in a joint environment."
AC-09 leads to an annual certification for the U.S. Navy on command and control capabilities as a Joint Task Force (JTF), JFMCC and Naval Task Force. U.S. European Commander grants the certification based on recommendations made to him by the U.S. Sixth Fleet commander and the assist and assess team from the Naval War College.
"While the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Sixth Fleet team has had some very recent real-world experiences planning and executing a humanitarian assistance mission to Georgia, this underway period not only sets the stage for the AC-09 execution phase in May, but also furthers our accomplishment of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa 2009 operational objectives by exercising our ability of being prepared for any contingency," said Marine Corps Col. Marc Riccio, director of strategic plans and policy.