Cell Helps Coalition Ships Operate Together

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MANAMA, Bahrain, April 25, 2006  - Making a coalition work is not an easy job. But the Friendly Forces Coordination Cell at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command here builds on more than 60 years of working with allies.

The cell has 15 liaison officers from coalition partners whose job it is to coordinate and integrate their countries' naval forces contributions to the maritime element of the war on terror, U.S. Navy Capt. Steve Gabriele, the director of the office, said.

Based here, the office serves as a focal point for queries, answers and coordination among many different aspects of the maritime coalition. "Their job is to represent their national interests and any operational issues their ships may be having by the maritime component commander's staff," Gabriele said.

The primary focus of the naval coalition is maintaining security and stability of the maritime environment for the free use of all nations. "This is very important in this area because 50 percent of the world's oil flows through here," the captain said. "The transnational nature of terrorism today makes maritime security extremely important."

For example, the office -- commonly known as F2C2 -- takes rules of engagement that each country places on their forces and works with the command to ensure both national and mission goals are in sync. "Our job is to make sure the coalition understands each nation's unique (rules of engagement) so they can operate in a complementary manner," he said.

The office grows and shrinks as forces join the component. If a new nation sends naval forces, it sends a liaison officer. Some nations have had ships serve with the various maritime forces at different times, but keep their liaison officer in place to keep current. "They remain here for continuity and situational awareness," Gabriele said.

The cell stresses common interests the nations have in combating terrorism and seeks the best way for all forces to work together. "We form a coalition in which we can provide mutual support, provide economies of scale, and forward our own unique national interests," Gabriele said.

Japan, which for constitutional reasons cannot provide combat forces, has supplied oil, fuel and other sustenance to coalition ships. Other countries provide supplies to the ships. This is another way the office coordinates the needs of the various ships operating together.

It all works surprisingly smoothly, he said. "With the variety of forces working together, the capabilities each nation provides being different, the political constraints each nation operates, there's lots of moving parts," he said. "But by focusing on the positive side, we are able to put it together so we all mutually benefit from each other."

The captain said NATO has served as the catalyst for the effort. Many nations involved in the coalition are also NATO allies, but countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan are not NATO members. They still have taken the NATO experience to heart as they work together against terrorism.

There are difficulties in building the coalition, the captain said, but none of them are "showstoppers." By having an organization like F2C2 that focuses on the coordination, the alliance is able to work together more smoothly and accomplish the mission.

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