Story by Sgt. Monique ONeill, U.S. Special Operations Command Europe
Naval special operations forces from the Greek Underwater Demolition Team (DYK), Cypriot Underwater Demolition Team (UDT), and U.S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) joined forces to conduct a maritime exercise in Souda Bay, Greece, January 11-29.
The tri-lateral Special Operations Forces (SOF) exercise, which was designed to better enable global operations, included Over the Beach (OTB), Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS), and Small Boat Interdiction (SBI).
“These exercises help keep us sharp, prepared, and consistent. We are able to communicate and integrate fluidly when we train together on a regular basis,” said the U.S. Naval SWCC team leader.
The United States, Greece, NATO allies and partners, continuously train together in the European theater operations to build trust, improve levels of cooperation and combined capabilities. The integration of the Republic of Cyprus is a demonstration of NATO’s commitment to increasing interoperability with regional partners in an effort to promote collective defense and stability.
“The inclusion of Cypriot forces created an opportunity to expand capabilities and relationships with partner nations in the neighboring area. We are all strong nations individually, but we can grow stronger by working collectively, in the context of joint military training activities,” said Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, Greek Minister of National Defense. “It’s imperative to understand that we can always learn and grow stronger by cross-training together with our partners and allies.”
Although Cyprus has been divided since 1974, the country has a unified military and training objectives.
“We know the importance of joint exercises like this and hope to work closely with partners in the future in order to promote peace and stability in our region,” said Charalambos Petrides, Minister of Defense of Cyprus.
To enhance the VBSS training experience for the SOF participants, the Hellenic Navy added a frigate, HS Kanaris, from their fleet to the exercise.
“This training was very useful for our ship and our crew. We are very proud to have the Special Forces from all three countries on board,” said Lieutenant Commander George Lykousas, member of the Hellenic Navy.
Throughout the entirety of the exercise, the SOF components used Combatant craft-assaults (CCAs) assigned to Special Operations Command Africa.
“The collective efforts enabling global operations increase interoperability in a maritime environment, alongside our NATO allies and partners, helping increase security and stability in the region,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. David Tabor. “We appreciate having this opportunity to build upon already strong relationships while also improving cooperation between Special Operations Command Africa and Special Operations Command Europe.”