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Sea Breeze 2017 Improving MOC Processes

July 12, 2017 at 12:21 PM UTC
Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Stumberg

It’s 8:20 a.m., and people are still filing into an auditorium on the Western Naval Base in Odessa, Ukraine, jockeying for the best seats. The morning briefing starts in 10 minutes.

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Just listening to the different conversations in the room gives one a sense of the participants' diversity. The low, excited buzz contains words in Ukrainian, English, and Italian with other languages, such as Swedish, peppered in. Interpreters work furiously to clarify important, last-minute details.

At exactly 8:30 a.m., “attention on deck” is called. The room falls silent and everyone comes to attention as the official party enters.

The morning briefing has begun in the Sea Breeze 2017 Maritime Operations Center (MOC), the central nervous system of the exercise’s decision-making capability.

As part of Sea Breeze 2017, the Ukrainians and their international partners are working deliberately to increase the combined efficiency of their MOC process and their ability to synchronize efforts at the strategic and operational levels.

“Our biggest challenges are making sure all of our participants understand what their responsibilities are, as well as seeing how they are operating together and affecting movements out at sea,” said Ukrainian Navy Capt. Oleksii Neizhpapa, the exercise co-director, through a translator.

Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukrainian co-hosted multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea. Designed to enhance the interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security in the region, it is being held for the 17th time this year.

MOCs were developed in response to fast-paced and multifaceted environments, which demand a more synchronized approach across the full range of military operations.

A successful MOC involves all of the elements of a joint force, as well as multinational partners. It serves as the core of the operational-to-tactical planning, execution, and assessment capability of the staff in support of the maritime commander.

Yet, with nearly 3,000 service members from 16 nations involved in Sea Breeze, at sea and on shore, that is easier said than done.

“Being new, we’re trying to see how capable [a MOC] is and we’ll be able to judge it based on the results we’ll be able to see at the end of the exercise,” said Neizhpapa.

Sea Breeze gives the Ukrainians a great opportunity to see if this type of command structure can be effective and if they want to implement it in the future, Neizhpapa said.

To help with the MOC process, mentors from partner nations help train and advise Ukrainian officers.

“The Sea Breeze mentors are here to share their experiences and best practices, like communications and procedure standardization,” said Royal Canadian Navy Lt. Cmdr. Hang Chao, who is serving as an operations mentor in Odessa.

Since the beginning of this year's exercise, Chao, along with other mentors, have been helping Ukrainians transition into exercise leadership roles.

To the mentors, the progress is clear.

United Kingdom Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Bryan McCavour , who is serving as a mentor to Ukrainian intelligence officers on the MOC staff, said the MOC is 100 percent led by the Ukrainians.

“They’ve moved from being part of the exercise to running the whole thing,” he said.

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