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Press Briefings
Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic

Phone Interview Transcription For Exercise Lightning Handshake

by IKE Carrier Strike Group Public Affairs
15 March 2021 PHONE INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTION FOR EXERCISE: LIGHTNING HANDSHAKE
 
RDML Scott F. Robertson (CSG-2 Commander)
CAPT Scott A. Jones (DESRON 22 Commander)
CAPT Marcos A. Jasso (Carrier Air Wing Three Commander)
LCDR Shawn P. Eklund (CSG-2 Public Affairs Officer)
Dave Ress (Reporter, Virginia Pilot)
 
 
LCDR Eklund: Hey Dave, this is Lieutenant Commander Eklund. How’re we doing today?
 
Dave: I’m pretty well today, how about yourself?
 
LCDR Eklund: I’m pretty good, I have on the call Rear Admiral Robertson from IKE CSG-2 and Captain Jones from DESRON 22. Please refer to their bios for the correct spelling and titles, and if I could just go over the ground rules: I’m recording everything on this side. We have about 45 minutes, does that sound good with you?
 
Dave: That’s sounds good.
 
LCDR Eklund: I’m gonna turn it over with Admiral Robertson.
 
RDML Robertson: Hey Dave, Rear Admiral Robertson here to work with ya.
 
Dave: How’re you doing today
 
RDML Robertson: I’m pretty good. It’s great to be here on deployment, and we’re doing really well so far. It’s good. This is what we all signed up for. I’m particularly pleased as I walk around the ship. The team’s really gelled and morale is high, so things are going well. I look forward to partnering with you on this.
 
Dave: I appreciate you taking the time, admiral. I think you probably know from some of our earlier chats that’s the need of the navy. I wanted to start out with a basic question that won’t make you laugh too hard. Things like the exercise Lightning Handshake with the Moroccan Navy and Air Force the main focus seems to be a thing called “interoperability.” It’s a term I hear a lot, but I was hoping on a practical basis you could translate for our readers what that means for you and your Sailors.
 
RDML Robertson: We do use that term a lot, so I think it’s important to call out here. I think last time we spoke I used a sports analogy, so I’m gonna do the same thing here. To operate together would be like having two separate football teams going out on a field together and practicing and running drills on the same football field, but really independent. You demonstrate that you’re able to deconflict and run plays back and forth, but you’re really kinda operating on the same field. To integrate is where a couple players from my team go to yours and a couple players from your team come to mine and now we’re all running plays truly together. That’s the integration piece we’re striving for with exercises like [Lightning Handshake]. We’re trying to integrate ships from both countries or aircraft from both countries to go off and achieve tactical objectives together. Does that make sense?
 
Dave: Mhm. Yep, it does.
 
RDML Robertson: And if I can, I’d like to bring it back to a navy’s perspective and give you a little more navy-speak on this one. There are really two reasons why we do exercises like what we just did with the Moroccans. The first is because we know we’re far stronger when we stand together. Operating with allies and partners that’re like-minded like we are, there’s certainly strength in being able to do global missions together whether it’s in day-to-day competition, responding to an emergency or crisis, or, if need be, to be able to go into a conflict together. That’s the first reason why we do stuff like this, and the second reason is even more basic than that, is to build trust. There’s only so much you can do with an email, with a phone call or power point slides back and forth or even statements with the press. You have to be there to actually build up trust and be able to fully, truly integrate together. Those’re really the two foundational reasons why we embark in exercises like this. We know we’re stronger when we’re together, and to build trust.
 
Dave: That’s quite helpful, I hadn’t quite thought of that trust build aspect before. That’s pretty good insight. One thing to check, looking at the Twitter feed, which has been very helpful and got me going on this, I’m thinking it’s been about three or four days of joint operations with the Moroccans, or maybe more or less than that?
 
RDML Robertson: Yeah, it was three full days.
 
Dave: Gotcha, and it covered a whole spectrum of stuff, we had live-fire exercises, anti-sub warfare, surface, and I think there was talk of interdiction sort of activities. I was wondering, looking at the difference between the CSG and the Moroccan Navy with its frigates and patrol craft if this is all sort of refreshing things that hadn’t quite been front and center for a CSG like the interdiction. Am I misreading that or am I going too far?
 
RDML Robertson: No, I think your assessment is accurate. I think what we’re getting at is – obviously you’re familiar with what a CSG brings as far as the multi-mission/multi-warfare ships and aircraft that we bring, and when you pair that up in an environment with the Moroccans that bring different capabilities to that, that’s the beauty of an exercise that’s blending all that unique capability to complete common tactical objectives. That’s one of the things we focus on: What are those unique asymmetrical, or unique capabilities that each one of our allies and partners can bring to a situation for us? So, to bring it full circle, we did venture out and exploit all the different warfare areas from a combined perspective that we could possibly have to undertake in the future.
 
Dave: Got you, got you. Is it a challenge operating with any foreign navy in terms of how you coordinate things like communication between ships, between aircraft, between – I think with the Moroccans you were working as well - with combat centers on shore? This’ll probably sound goofy, but were they speaking English, French or Arabic? It sounds like that would be difficult to do.


CAPT Jones: It’s not a goofy question at all, actually, it’s always a concern for us anytime we’re working with an ally or partner especially when their core country language is something different than English, in this case being French. So to help mitigate that, we certainly establish communications early through already established points of contact and relationships. In this case we leaned heavy into the American embassy and the communication paths are already in place with the Moroccan armed forces to start dialogues. We did have LNOs, liaison navy officers, that were ashore there to help us to be able to be a quick reference if there were any questions on what we were proposing, and then the early transmission of what our game plan would be in the form of exercise serials – kinds of written messages that would lay out what the flow of the exercise vignettes are gonna be – what kind of communication paths we’re gonna use,  what safety procedures we’re gonna follow, and kinda highlighting what the overall tactical objectives are. You’re right to sit there and go “how do you do this,” but the early liaison, using the already established comms paths, and finally we’re pretty fortunate that English is recognized as the international language for the seas and air, so we have a little bit of an advantage there on that as far as English being the core language. That’s how we approach it, any follow-up questions on that?
 
Dave: I was thinking with the planning that went ahead of time, I imagine that if you put that into a physical manual, a book that planned the operation, it must be a pretty thick book, eh?
 
CAPT Jones: You think that it would be volumous, but it’s not all that much. We have a pre-script format that gives the required information that you need to be able to go out and do these exercises. It’s not quite as volumous as you imagine, not that our exercises were following any kind of script. In fact, there was quite a bit of free-play in them so we can get our maximum training value out of it.
 
Dave: I always think that we use the term training a lot, but I sometimes think a better word would be practicing. I feel like, with your comments about the conciseness of this pre-approved formatted plan for the exercise – really bring the point home. It’s like really more as much about developing muscle memory as it is explaining new things to do.
 
RDML Robertson: I would agree with that. I wouldn’t label it as training. We were operating together. I think that is a difference. The training tends to follow a pre-script, usually prescriptive assessment to meet some kind of objective. We were truly focused on whatever the end-state was, whether to put ordnance on a target that’s at sea, or bombard a target ashore, or to do low-level runs and drop bombs with aircraft on an exercise range. We were truly operating with the Moroccans.
 
Dave: I fear that I’m going to be asking some dumb questions here, the Moroccan Navy doesn’t have an aviation wing. Is there a difference between naval aviators and land-based aviators that you guys have to work through and practice, or is that something you don’t really have to worry about?
 
RDML Robertson: That’s a great question. I’m going to hand it off to Capt. Jasso, commander of our air wing.
 
CAPT Jasso: Hey Dave, my apologies for being tardy. I want to start off with you’re actually spot-on with the Moroccan Air Force, but I don’t think we can discount the fact that they have a rotary wing, and they are heavily embedded with their frigate and with their maritime footprint. I think the best way to describe the partnership and the training piece of it, and I’ll get to your question here shortly, but it’s regional expertise. The best way I would describe it is, as we talk about practicing and what true operations is, we aren’t going to be here for quite some time so the next time a CSG or ESG will have interaction with the Moroccans could be in another year, and so that regional expertise still resides with the Moroccans. By having the confidence and the trust with both teams, if we come to an operation it doesn’t have to be a kinetic or combat op. We’ve already operated and we feel comfortable. An example – back to the air force or rotary wing aspect of it – the fact that they have their helicopters landing on our ships and we feel confident in their ability, could be part of our combat logistics operation, or quite possibly moving the appropriate expertise ashore and if we found some kind of reason where, let’s say going from ship-to-shore there’s a change in environment, a change in the sand or some kind of environmental, these folks’ regional expertise knows the safest routes to the expeditionary landing of helicopters so we practice that with them. We feel pretty confident not just with the navy side of them, but the air force side as well. Back to the operations. The Moroccans did a phenomenal job when it came to setting up their specific ranges. What I mean by that is they had target sets out there, and we provided – not the strike group – but the United States provided joint terminal area controllers – essentially, folks that are on the ground to assess a situation. When we try to assess a situation, regardless of where it is in the world, when we have regional expertise that are embedded with these joint terminal area controllers, they can also talk about sensitive areas like: “Hey, that’s actually some kind of cultural sensitivity…religious sensitivity,” and it helps us put no-fire areas in a very complex environment. Even though that was part of our training, or operational piece behind it, that’s why when we do these bilateral exercises/engagements, it’s truly to set up that level of knowledge and confidence that when we’re called to task and we have to come unannounced and we’re asked to help with a scenario, the regional expertise on what we’re trying to accomplish really resides with the Moroccans relationship with us. We definitely saw that. I participated in one of the close-air-support missions and we had two of the F-16s from the Moroccan Air Force. We also had five aircraft from our strike group, specifically Team Battle-Axe – the air wing that’s embedded with IKE – and the seamless integration from just standard procedures from being controlled, being deconflicted air and also providing the target set that we were going after was on par with training that we do back in the U.S. and on par with actual ops that go on in actual countries today and that have been going on for two decades now, if we want to talk about more recent, low-intensity war type mindset. We were truly impressed, at least with the air wing, with their capabilities in the air when it came to the air force. An interesting note when it comes to interoperability in the air side of things, and as the admiral had stated, we don’t have piles and piles of doctrine or pre-planned missions, but the pleasure we enjoyed with the Moroccans is they have a western-trained mindset, and when you’re western-trained, for the most part you can bring multiple nations together and we just want to get through the appropriate ‘who’s in charge, what’s our comms node, and what’s going to be our mission/operational requirement. Now you go back to your western-trained mindset. It doesn’t mean we’re all trained the same, but we’re trained similarly enough that we can get over those kinds of barriers. I just wanted to share that with you as well. The last thing I wanna share, and quite impressive not just from my stand point, but from the folks who had the opportunity to fly side-by-side with their air force. The Moroccans have one of their aircraft, it’s the F-5 Tiger, this F-5 Tiger has an air-to-air refueling capability, and unfortunately as the Moroccans don’t have their own logistical way of training or even providing fuel airborne for these F-5 Tigers that have this capability, the big ones on this op was we took our capability of refueling as if we had done it before they required very little coaching. In fact, the professionalship and their professionalism when it came to actually plug into a _______ and receiving fuel airborne is really dynamic, I can’t explain to ya how frustrating it can be if you’re not proficient and the concern can be that it becomes a more difficult task to just get fuel in the airborne environment, and these pilots of the Moroccan, I’ll call them Tiger pilots, they are flying F-5’s, they did a remarkable job, no issues getting airborne and getting actually into those droves, we actually have our young nuggets that have trouble and struggle with that and so an example when it asked about regional experts there could be a situation that could be based on their regional expertise they have to lead us on some type of scenario. I am not trying to say this has to be a combat scenario, but if you’re not at war, part of winning any type of any operations it the logistical aspect of it. The fact that we have confidence that they can stay airborne for as long as humanly as possible, as long as we can give them fuel, is a huge win regardless of the environment. It can be something as simple as an overwater rescue type of scenario where they need fuel to keep them airborne, or going inland somewhere for some type of rescue or humanitarian mission and the fact that we can provide them airborne, just the fact that allows their pilots/experts to be airborne with us in any scenario. A huge success for this particular Lightning Handshake. With that I’ll get off the stage and taking all the air out of the room.
 
Dave: Captain, you’ve caught me on something else that I didn’t know about. (Inaudible) aircraft that could fly from a carrier that can refuel or am I misunderstanding that?
 
CAPT Jasso: We have been doing this for decades. One of the things that we have to be as best as we can is self-reliant. And what that really means is the flexibility and being dynamic as a striking force within our Navy is we have to build, sustainable aircraft that can take that. What we typically do is have six configured aircraft topside. When I say topside on the flight deck, that our primary mission is to provide fuel –  we don’t always have to provide fuel – but we want that fuel airborne just in case we need it. An example being an individual aircraft has some type of emergency, and we just need decision space, and what I mean by decision space, is we just need more time to either get the carrier ready or more time to allow this person who might have to, in an emergency environment, go to a land base. We train to, give fuel to that hurt bird, if you will, that damaged aircraft, either single engine, in some case, we trade what we call low speed, if that damage aircraft needs to have its landing gear down, for whatever reason, it can’t have its landing gear up. It’s very challenging, what that does it provides an insurance policy to provide fuel so they can go where they need to go. Finally, tactical reach. We can’t expect, as much as I’d like – I’d love – for the Airforce to provide us with big wing tanking. That’s the big KC 135 or the big KC 10, or in some cases other national or international partners will bring their big wing tanking where we can get all kinds of fuel but with tactical reach, we have to do it on our own, so we have been fueling our own aircraft for decades, for a long time, so it’s something we bring to our overall portfolio for carrier aviation.
 
LCDR Eklund: Hey Dave, real quick this is LDCR Eklund, in your inbox right now, in addition to the bios, I provided you links, one of those links has the our aircraft refueling the F-5, so you’ll be able to see where we’re doing that in action.
 
Dave: Oh great. Terrific. I had another dumb question. To be sure I was understanding correctly, when we were talking about the live fire exercises when we were unsure. Did I understand right that there is U.S. Navy personnel on shore as controllers in that situation, or did I mishear you there?
 
CAPT Jasso: So, I can’t verify if they are U.S. Navy. I can tell you they come from, and I can follow up and find out if they are actually Navy. More than likely they are Marine Corp. Still part of the department of the Navy. But specifically speaking we have joint terminal air controllers that are infantrymen and are also in some cases pilots that will do a shore tour and provide that ground and air expertise. But I do not want you to say that these were specifically Navy folks. To be quite honest I don’t know if they are Navy or Marine Corp but they are definitely U.S. Soldiers or Sailors providing that part of the operation and basic ground control and helping us get kinetic fires on deck.
 
Dave: Great. Another thing that I wanted to check on was that you mentioned the combined logistic and I think and I saw some photos of the Moroccan helicopters. I’m sorry, I can’t remember if they were Moroccan helicopters landing on the (not sure what he said right here) side I think. When we think about the combined logistics is that basically getting the materials from the shore to the ship or vice versa or both ways?
 
CAPT Jasso: So it could be both ways. It could be a material, parts, but it could also be personnel. So, when I think logistics it’s not just the bullets or the stores or the parts part, but it’s also personnel. And on a rare occasion, but a necessary occasion it would be a medical evacuation. And, that’s just when we are trying to get a better medical treatment for an injury at sea, that’s another way that we will do it, as far as the helicopter.
 
CAPT Jones: This is Captain Jones, the commodore. To add on to that, not all of our ships in the U.S. Navy actually embark US helicopters. We are capable of supporting them. So, a lot of times when you find yourself over here operating with our foreign partners or even by yourself, as there are incidents at sea, such as responding to a ship on fire, this also gives us the capability to support the host Nation. Not just as the Navy but as the Coast Guard. As they come out to execute search and rescue, not only ca they land on us but we can also re-fuel them to extend that reach and on time station, to make sure that we can support mariners that are in distress on the high seas.
 
Dave: I was thinking, especially watching the Moroccans land on the …….., I hope I’m pronouncing it correctly.. to be able to coordinate that, especially if it’s an unfamiliar ship to the pilot or an unfamiliar helicopter to the Sailor on the destroyer who are helping give them a hand. That sounds like a significate kind of either learning or muscle memory enhancing kind of operation. I’m guessing we are used to doing that with American pilots and that’s part of the accomplishment of the joint exercises – reminding everyone how to do it with a pilot from another Navy. Am I reaching too far with that? Or was that an important thing?
 
CAPT Jones: So it’s a valid point. We generally work with U.S. helicopters particularly while we train. When we certify our ships for aviation capability, we certify them to a whole range of type model series that include our allies and partners.
 
Dave- I was struck that the helicopter operation on and off a destroyer, looks like it’s a difficult enough thing. And I was thinking that doing it between different Navies would be an important part – reminding everyone how to do it. Reminding people, reminding a pilot what approaching an unfamiliar ship might look like. Reminding the ship what handling an unfamiliar helicopter might involve. So I was wondering if I was reading too much into that. Is that as complicated as it looks to an outsider?
 
CAPT Jones: It is definitely a very challenging operation to execute even for our U.S. pilots, most of us, all of us have been on a helicopter landing on a destroyer and it look like the size of a postage stamp as you’re coming in. We do have procedures set up and we train to them extensively. So regardless of the type model series that the US or allies are flying, that we are safely able to get them in all sorts of conditions. We always, like, execute that to give the pilots the opportunity. And let’s face it, it’s kind of cool. Top-rate other nations ship and aircrafts, and particularly with the Moroccans, they might not get an opportunity for each individual pilot, we offer it up every time because they are such a force multiplier while we are operating with them.
 
Dave: Admiral Robertson had mentioned that near the top of that exercise is having a real practical sense of who you can trust and thinking of a helicopter approaching a destroyer that initially looks like the size of a postage stamp and getting on and off okay. That’s got to be a real trust building exercise.
 
CAPT Jones: Yeah, absolutely right. So, working alongside the Moroccans, it’s definitely not just building the trust and confidence in each other but building trust and confidence in our own ships and our own Sailors and weapons systems. That’s not just from the aviation perspective, but that’s also as we operate the ships in close proximity to each other as we execute various tactical maneuvers, and just as importantly as we safely implore our weapon systems, which we did on multiple occasions with each other here. Everything from our five-inch main battery, the main gun on the bow of the DDG to the various crew serve weapons, the 25mm, the 50cal and M-240 machine guns to executing that Naval surface fire support bombarding the shore.
 
Dave: I wanted to double-check that a large part of this exercise involved live fire. I think I saw photos of ……….deploying of targets and that sort of thing. It struck me that ships close together firing live ammunition is another where practice and trust are important function of an exercise
 
CAPT Jones: It absolutely is. The more often we can work together – to go back to the Admiral’s sport analogy – you don’t win the Super Bowl without a line that can work together and that takes practice, over and over. That analogy applies out here. Everything we do is inherently dangerous. So, the more opportunity we get to practice our doctrine with our allies the more confidence we get in each other and the greater trust that we have and that just helps cement to the cooperative relationship that we have with all our partners but particularly here during Lightning Handshake with the Moroccans.
 
Dave: One thing I was struck by, too, is the Moroccan frigate looked like it significantly different kind of vessel then what I think I’ve seen in the U.S. Navy. It’s somewhat smaller, smaller crew. I guess it’s a Dutch design. Does it take a lot of getting used to coordinate between the capabilities of an American destroyer and a Moroccan frigate….just thinking in terms of how you move across the sea, how fast you can go how fast you can turn, that sort of stuff. Is that stuff you have to get practice in?
 
CAPT Jones: Yeah, so every ship definitely has different capabilities and characteristic to operate. Their frigate is akin to our…it’s about the……class was that we used to implore, I think we decommissioned them about a decade ago. But it’s about half the length of one of our destroyers. But really, it’s about integrated the capabilities. So, as we have our doctrines sent out, it’s kind of agnostic of how big the platform is. So, we’re able to operate in close proximity to each other and be able to capitalize on each other’s strength.           
 
Stopped at 34:55
 
As an overall force multiplier which makes us so much stronger, that’s again why we like to operate together, is to get those sets and reps as a force, such as when we find ourselves in the future needing to lean on each other, we are able to do so as equal partners.
 
Dave: Got ya (inaudible) Is this the first time that you have personally operated with the Moroccans? I believe there was an exercise in 2015? Is this new for you? I’m sorry, I was curious, is this the first time you are with the Moroccans? Or have you been able to do this with earlier exercises?
 
CAPT Jones: Yea, hey….collectively here it is our first opportunity, for us three personally to be able to operate with the Moroccans. Because of that, we leaned heavily on the experiences of the Harry S. Truman, who you have mentioned did this exercise two years ago. So, we incorporated some of their lessons learned going into this to make this exercise that much more smoothly and to be able to up the level integration because those lessons learned.
 
Dave: Got ya. (inaudible) Pre-planning, and this isn’t something that we do off the cusp (inaudible). You were talking with Harry S. Truman folks from well before the actual deployment (inaudible).

RDML Robertson: Yes, there were definitely some early integration, and the Navy has a robust lesson learned database. As you’re probably familiar, personalities transfer from units all the time, so our ability to collect lessons learned and be able to have access to them is really important. So it wasn’t so much the actual personnel from Harry S. Truman that we utilized. We went in to use our formal lessons learned database, to extract a lot of that information.
 
Dave: Got ya. I had (inaudible) throughout this idea of us talking to you guys, which I really appreciate, this is really a great opportunity I think I had asked as well if there were particular operations within this exercise that real accomplishments, things that you might want to brag about back to folks back home. Can we double check, I think I have a hint of a couple of them already? But I want to (inaudible) on this end. What do you want to brag about that yall did?

RDML Robertson: Hey yea, we’ll go in order here. I’ll let the Commodore answer first, and then the CAG answer, and then I’ll clean up.

CAPT Jones: I think the big thing, and not to highlight one, but highlight all, the fact that across being able to maneuver ships in close proximity, the ability to employ our weapon systems for both surface and anti-submarine warfare, as well as fire support. I think the huge win is to show that we can seamlessly and flawlessly integrate the Moroccan force capabilities that make us so much stronger. Throughout the exercise, they were able to continually demonstrate that they are very professional and competent as both mariners and warfighters. So when we look back we are celebrating 200 years with the Moroccans, it just beckons to the future, that we are looking forward to 200 more years as working together as partners to enhance the regional stability here off of Africa. Over.
 
CAPT Jasso: CAG, I would also like to echo, what Scott said, he is absolutely spot on. I think in my, the ability to brag at home to folks back home is a maritime securities operation and here’s why. We deploy countless times through our career and no deployment’s the same, but one of the things we want to be successful at is inoperability and any time we can do operation like this, where it just seems like we have been doing it constantly but as you just heard. None of us have worked with the Moroccans before and I think it could be argued that Harry S. Truman, when they came through here two years ago they hadn't worked with the Moroccans before, or its probably rare. Yet we can come out here and do operations, and support maritime security operations, and ultimately it almost seems seamless – like we do this weekly basis, bi-monthly basis, so that’s very conforming and I think that folks back at home should be aware of, around the world we have partners that are proficient and share the same like-minded goals with freedom of navigation. And those things are what I would like to highlight and brag about.
 
RDML Robertson: Dave, Admiral Robertson again, I think from my perspective I couldn’t be prouder of the IKE Strike Group in totality and combination with the Moroccan forces because the collective force has made a big investment in a couple of areas: a big investment in the mindset that we all benefit from free and open axis to the maritime domain; a big investment…both of our countries support a rule based international order. We also made a big investment here of standing together and defending our sovereignty, if you will, off of authoritarian influence or coercion and so that’s kind of the next level up of what we accomplished here over the course of the three-day exercise and I’m excited for our strike group to go on and do it again with other allies and partners and which currently we are scheduled to do.
 
Dave: I had seen some photos of, to be honest, I can’t remember if they were before operations or after Lighting Handshake, but some really nice photos on your twitter feed of operating with the Italian vessels. You guys do nice photographs of your operation.


RDML Robertson: Yeah, we are pretty fortunate, we have some great professionals here. I think that’s an important one to have. I’m glad you saw that, because that was not a planned integration. That was just an integration opportunity that presented itself and when we found that we were operating in the same waters and communication was established. We were able to get into close opportunity. It was great to operate with them, and I think that is one of the powers of, I don’t want to say ‘power of the strike group’, and I think that goes back to the mentality that we are always looking for opportunities to work side-by-side with our partners and Allies, and whether it’s formally planned or whether it’s an impromptu and that was definitely an impromptu opportunity to operate with them.
 
Dave: You know one thing, that I am closing my eyes and picturing now when your operating with the Moroccans, and I am not sure where do you come across and try to be impromptu or integration with the Italians. I am also guessing it’s near the straits of Gibraltar, which are I think fair to say a particularly important sea passage. It’s a big deal to know that part of the sea and that part of the coast it get familiar with it.
 
RDML Robertson: Hey Dave, I think you can quote yourself in that article because you are absolutely right. It’s important to be able to operate in an international body of water, especially internationally recognized choke points, like the Strait of Gibraltar.
 
LCDR Eklund: Hey Dave, I am sorry this is LTCR Eklund. I can get you one more question and then I think We got to wrap it up on this side.
 
Dave: I appreciate that I have just the right one. What invention does…..I think Americans seem to forget is two hundred years of friendship. The Moroccans were the first, or one of the first, to recognize American independence. I was wondering if I could get, not really an operational level, but a personal level. Did you get the chance to have personal interactions with the Moracins that you would like to talk about?
 
RDML Robertson: Hey Dave, unfortunately for IKE strike group, due to COVID we were unable to get personal interaction which is unfortunate because of, as you highlighted, the significance here in the 200th year here in our interactions with Morocco. COVID Really kind of precluded that, on a radio.
I did kind of exchange some kind of letters with the military leaders but that was kind of the extent of our ability to interact.
 
Dave: I completely understand and hopefully next time (inaudible) a good productive exercise. Gentleman, you have been a big help. I know I ask a lot of dumb questions and I appreciate your patience and your politeness of not laughing until after we hang up. So, this is a good story and I think it’s important to try to explain to folks what hard work IKE Strike Group Sailors accomplishes and they are going to continue to go on through deployment. So, I will let you go and, if I got this right, Fair Winds and Following Seas!
 
RDML Robertson: Well done there Dave! Please, hey…just there on a personal point please don’t apologize. We speak a different language sometimes and our language here, in military-speak, it interacts here with each other makes sense. Sometimes we are not sensitive enough to how that translates to folk that aren’t familiar. Thank you for your work, you translate what we are doing out here into terms that our family, our friends, our supporters back there can understand, so I certainly appreciate your efforts in this as well.
 
Dave: Thank you, folks, and take care, and keep up the good work, okay?
 
RDML Robertson: Thanks, Dave!
 
 
 
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