Lt(N) Adrian Lalancette, Dive Team Commander, speaks with International media during a SEA BREEZE 2017 press day.
Photo: Capt Marc Greatti, MARLANT PA

Mentoring on Sea Breeze 2017 in Odessa, Ukraine

By Capt Marc Greatti,

Odessa, in Ukraine, is a port city…a historic city, and since early July, it has been the site of SEA BREEZE 2017 (SB17), a multi-national training event led by the United States and Ukraine Navies. The aim of SB17 was to enhance interoperability and strengthen maritime security in the Black Sea Region.

SB17 included 16 nations, 30 vessels, 17 aircraft and approximately 3,000 personnel, not to mention a maritime amphibious component working in conjunction with Ukrainian law enforcement agencies. With this many working parts, the need for command and control is crucial, especially for a military that has their sights set on working to a NATO standard.

Mentorship will greatly assist with implementing a standardized international system of command and control. It provides the opportunity to learn under the direction of those with significant experience in NATO style operations. Enter the International team of Mentors. With experienced senior naval officers from France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Norway, Belgium and Sweden, the task of guiding Ukrainian Maritime Operations Center staff officers had begun in earnest.

“The recognized expertise of RCN Maritime Operational Planners is increasingly called upon to support training initiatives.” These are the words of Cdr David Finch, Maritime Component Commander and Deputy Chief of Staff – Exercise, Plans & Readiness at MARLANT.  “…the development of HQ structures, systems and trained personnel, applying modern doctrinal planning processes will ensure Ukraine Navy and Maritime Security forces achievement of maritime interoperability objectives.”

The Ukrainian Navy has been extremely eager to learn in addition to being open to change. Their original military culture was based heavily on the Russian military model in where initiative and flexibility are stifled in an atmosphere of command micro-management and risk adversity.

It is understood that transformation will be a long term goal. However, RCN mentors have worked diligently and challenged the Ukrainian officers consistently so as to provide the foundation for positive change within the Maritime Operation Center.

“They will not be there tomorrow…” said mentor Cdr Thor Straten of the Norwegian Navy. “They will not get there next week, nor next year, but they are making great progress and will get there eventually.”

Further contributing to the Canadian effort were two important elements.  First, a contingent of 8 Royal Canadian Navy Clearance Divers from Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic). Under the supervision of Lt(N) Adrian Lalancette, the Canadian divers provided top notch instruction to their diving counterparts from Ukraine, Romania and Georgia who greatly appreciated the opportunity to learn from true experts in their field. Second, SB17 also delved into the many different facets of martial and maritime law. LCdr (then Lt(N)) Derek Schroeder, of the Halifax Judge Advocate General’s Office, worked with legal advisors from the United States and Ukraine in order to highlight the importance of legal considerations during the operational planning process and into the training.

The principal effort, however, during SB17 took place behind the scenes in the form of the mentor team. Continually providing solid advice, critiques and supervision, the mentor’s contribution was crucial in ensuring that the Ukrainian Navy is set up for success in the quest to obtain the standard of operating within a NATO environment.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of the mentor role in SEA BREEZE,” states Cdr Geoff Steed, the Senior Canadian mentor and team lead.  “Our ability to provide solid guidance in running a Maritime Operations Centre to an acceptable NATO standard is highly valued by the Ukraine Navy.  The training relationships and friendships that we have forged in Ukraine have aided greatly in the development of their operational planning process and significantly improve interoperability.”

SB17 ran the better part of July from July 4 to 23. During this time frame, the Royal Canadian Navy team of mentors and divers from MARLANT worked hard to provide direction and forge friendships that not only pave the way for the Ukraine Navy to better operate in a NATO environment, but also ensure good will and continued collaboration for the foreseeable future.