Nick Newns reports on Naval affairs in the South-West
Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) sailed in to Devonport Naval base on 20 April for training with Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST). The force made up of five warships - ORP GENERAL K. PULASKI (Polish), HMCS ATHABASKAN (Canada), USS SIMPSON (United States), FGS MECKLENBURG-VORPOMMERN (Germany), and NRP VASCO DA GAMMA (Portugal), due to take part in a Disaster Relief Exercise (DISTREX) exercise.
With three of the warships alongside at the naval base and USS SIMPSON and GENERAL K. PULASKI anchored in Plymouth sound on 21 April the squadron participated in a DISTREX held in the north end of the Devonport dockyard. The embarked SH-60B Seahawk 161233/HN-427 of HSL-42 'Proud Warriors' flew numerous sorties from USS SIMPSON in Plymouth Sound, flying low up the river Tamar to the DISTREX training area with underslung loads providing support equipment to the sailors on the ground.
The DISTREX exercise allowed SNMG1 to practice Humanitarian Relief skills, one of the core missions of the NATO Reaction Force (NRF). During the scenario the Force was expected to provide relief to a simulated small community on an island that had been hit by a hurricane. DISTREX training includes a multitude of challenges, including rescuing people from cars and buildings, building a bridge across a ravine, identifying and burying the dead, and setting up a hospital and treating casualties. Over 160 sailors taking part in the efforts ashore, and many more supporting those efforts from on board the ships of the Force. SNMG1 sailed the next day heading south to participate in EXERCISE SWORDFISH 06.