Surface Warfare Magazine
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Surface Warriors
Foreign Officers Advance Surface Warrior Partnerships

Photo courtesy of: The Royal Netherlands Navy by SMJR Gerben van Es

For more than 230 years, the U.S. Navy has achieved and maintained much of its maritime superiority from long-term alliances with foreign partners.

The importance of building, maintaining and enhancing these partnerships is reflected in Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus’ four priorities to ensure the Navy will “continue to be the finest fighting force the world has ever known."

“When our ships and Marines exercise with our European and international partners, it is the connection between the people that is most important to our future ability to operate together,” said Mabus recently, at a security conference in The Hague. “It is one of the reasons we send so many of our officers to war colleges here in Europe, and conduct exchange programs."

Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic (SURFLANT) has an inventory of more than 70 warships and is responsible for manning, training, and equipping them. At any given time, nearly half of these ships are either forward deployed to Spain and Bahrain, or deployed around the world in other locations. Some of these ships, both stateside and abroad, have billets permanently manned by officers from foreign forces.


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“Foreign officers serving aboard our ships bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our team,” said Rear Adm. Pete Gumataotao, SURFLANT commander. “They can offer a different perspective while helping us build on our strengths. These partnerships, forged at the deck-plate level and honed on the high seas, have led to friendships and collaborations, enduring ties to allied navies and nations.”

Kapitänleutnant Anika Herrmann of the German Navy, Maj. Bastien Leclerc of the Canadian Army and Lt. Matt Millyard of the British Royal Navy, are three such officers bringing this new perspective to SURFLANT ships.

Millyard received his commission in October 2007 and reported to his current assignment in November 2012 as navigator aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81).

“This job has been a fantastic opportunity for me,” he said. “I have learned a lot during my two years here and I know that I have grown as a manager and a leader; without a doubt, the Royal Navy is getting a better officer back. “

As a catholic priest for the Canadian Army, Leclerc now tends to the religious needs of more than 250 Sailors deployed aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51). Leclerc joined the crew in February, a day before the ship deployed on an eight-month deployment in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

“We are truly blessed to have him aboard,” said Cmdr. Camille Flaherty, Arleigh Burke commanding officer. “We are the only ship with a French Canadian Chaplain, and one of the few afloat units with a Roman Catholic priest. I am 100 percent confident that without him we wouldn’t be nearly as successful as we have been on this deployment.”

Setting sail aboard a U.S. Navy warship was an unexpected turn of events for the Canadian Soldier. "This is my first ship ever," Leclerc said. "I've never even been on a Canadian ship."

Leclerc’s lack of naval experience does not limit his ability to support the ship as he also organizes community relations (COMREL) projects when the ship pulls into foreign ports.

“Our first COMREL project was in Marseille, France,” he said. “We spent two days there, with about 20 Sailors each day, playing with underprivileged children at the ‘Domaine de Fontainieu.’ It was a fantastic experience for the children and Sailors.”

Flaherty attributes much of the success of Arleigh Burke’s COMREL projects and their numerous official visits and events, to Leclerc’s translating abilities.

“It shows that the partnership isn’t just aboard the ship, but abroad as we are interested in learning about our French partners and other nations we visit. He really helps link that bridge and tie that knot,” she explained.

Aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG 66) Herrmann serves as the ship’s navigator. She joined the German Navy in July of 2005, and has been assigned to Hue City since last October.

“I believe intercultural skills make better people out of us,” she said. “Living, learning and working in a different country and in a different navy is a life-changing, mind-opening experience. It provides first-hand experience on what is different in the way our navies operate, and thus contributes to a better understanding of the way our militaries cooperate.”

Herrmann’s performance aboard the ship has made a positive impression on the Hue City crew.

“She brings energy, enthusiasm and a different approach to how other countries’ navies operate,” added Hue City Command Master Chief Jimmie Carter.

“Due to its very nature, this experience will be carried with Herrmann for the rest of her life,” said Cmdr. Shan Bogart, Hue City executive officer. “It provides our Sailors the opportunity to work directly with a military service member of an allied country. Her service onboard speaks volumes about how far our countries have come in building strong partnerships. Given the rich history we have had with our allied countries since the birth of our nation, this experience is integral to the professionalism and development of all our Sailors.”

Herrmann, Millyard, and Leclerc are only three in a long line of volunteers to serve a foreign country.

“The American Revolution might have been lost but for foreigners who came to make common cause with the Colonials by joining George Washington’s rag-tag Continental Army and Navy, and the struggling republic was all the better for having them in its ranks,” reported Cmdr. (ret.) Eric Dietrich-Berryman, of the Hampton Roads Naval Historical Foundation.

Even Capt. John Paul Jones, the “Father of the U.S. Navy” served abroad, according to Dietrich-Berryman. Following the War for Independence, Jones joined the navy of Russia’s Catherine the Great, winning decisive battles over the Ottoman Turks in the Black Sea.

Nearby, this tradition continues today, aboard SURFLANT ships.

“Working together, we become more interoperable,” summarized Mabus.” We can provide key training and develop the operational capabilities of like-minded countries and navies. This in itself increases stability for the global system, distributes the burdens and costs of maritime security, and makes us all safer. The burden of security has to be shared, meaning, our partnerships matter.” Surface Warfare Magazine

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