Reliant Mermaid kicks off with USS O'Bannon, Israeli and Turkish Navies

USS O'BANNON (DD 987) AT SEA - Sailors of USS O'Bannon joined Israeli and Turkish Sailors off the coast of Israel today in the annual search and rescue (SAR) exercise named Reliant Mermaid.

This seventh annual Reliant Mermaid exercise with U.S., Israeli, and Turkish forces is particularly timely this year, as the life-saving skills and techniques being rehearsed are identical to ongoing tsunami rescue efforts along Indian Ocean coastlines. While Reliant Mermaid hones other skills for the Sailors, saving lives is at the forefront of this year participants' minds.

"Our thoughts are with the victims of the recent tsunami. Exercises like these will help us and the other countries participating be even better prepared to answer the bell if we're needed for SAR missions," explained Lt. j.g. Garrett Gerland, USS O'Bannon's Damage Control Assistant and Search and Rescue team leader.

Leaders of the three participating navies held a joint press conference before getting underway and they quickly pointed out the benefits of these exercises towards operational proficiency when working together in the future.

"These exercises have improved communications between participating navies each year. Reliant Mermaid better positions us to provide swift, effective support to these types of humanitarian missions when called upon," said Captain Avi Arzony, Commander of the Israeli 3rd Flotilla.

This year's exercise will include multiple SAR scenarios to challenge the seamanship, medical response and cooperation levels of everyone involved. The four-day exercise includes crew interaction opportunities, in-port exercises and drills, a full day and night underway jam-packed with multiple challenging evolutions, and exercise wrap up meetings to improve on the training next year.

Cmdr. Troy A. Stoner, Commanding Officer of USS O'Bannon, pointed out the best way to achieve success in these exercises.

"We have studied lessons learned from past Reliant Mermaid exercises in efforts to make this year's exercise more beneficial and relevant than ever. Every time we conduct these types of exercises it improves our interoperability with participating navies, that naturally can serve as a deterrent for potential terrorists also," Stoner added.

USS O'Bannon deployed from Mayport, Fla., in November 2004.

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