Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Terry Adams places “Service” in “Reserve.” An undergraduate graduate in aeronautical science, he served on mobilization orders with Combined Task Force 59 (TF 59), one of three units composed primarily of U.S. Navy Reserve sailors operating in Bahrain, attached to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT)/US 5th Fleet. The other two units are Coalition Task Force Sentinel (CTF Sentinel) and Navy Coordination and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS).
The three units played an important role in International Maritime Exercise/Cutlass Express 2022 (IMX/CE 2022), the largest maritime training event in the Middle East, which was held from January 31 to February 17. The exercise, led by NAVCENT/5th Fleet and US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, involved more than 60 nations and international organizations and covered the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and the northern Indian Ocean.
Reserve Sailor support for IMX/CE 2022 – and NAVCENT/5th Fleet as a whole – shows the emerging success of the U.S. Navy Reserve’s new four lines of effort: Design, Train, Mobilize and Force Develop.
“Reserve sailors are an integral part of the NAVCENT/5th Fleet mission,” said Rear Admiral Robert Nowakowski, Reserve Vice Commander, NAVCENT/5th Fleet. “They are highly skilled, highly skilled professionals who bring not only their military combat experience, but their civilian expertise as well.”
The newest line of effort for the Naval Reserve, incorporated in January 2022, is “Building the Force”. It emphasizes promoting professional growth, supporting individual sailors and their families, and minimizing administrative distractions to allow sailors to focus on preparation and well-being.
CTF Sentinel depends on a well-developed force, requiring members who are ready to jump into their roles and instantly perform at a high level. The task force is the operational arm of the International Maritime Security Construct, an eight-nation coalition tasked with ensuring freedom of navigation throughout the Middle East region. About half of CTF Sentinel’s personnel are from the United States Navy, all of whom are drafted reserve sailors.
CTF Sentinel Quartermaster Second Class Adam Morris is an example of what effective pre-mobilization preparation and force development looks like. A high school physics teacher in Texas in the civilian world, he spent two years training with his Naval Reserve unit back home to master the computer systems he now employs in Bahrain.
“If someone was appointed to my position without the kind of training I received, they couldn’t do the job,” he said.
During IMX/CE 2022, CTF focused on ways to improve coordination among regional naval forces in the face of maritime security crises. Morris said the real world implications of his work and those of his fellow reserve sailors in the unit are the greatest reward.
“There is an immediate, tangible and relatable effect of the actions I help take,” he said. “It’s personally so rewarding.”
One of the goals of the Naval Reserve’s “Build the Force” line of effort is to look more broadly at new capabilities like autonomous unmanned vehicles and artificial intelligence. TF 59 at NAVCENT/5and Fleet oversees this mission.
The task force is a one-of-a-kind unit, two-thirds of which are Naval Reserve sailors, tasked with integrating unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into maritime operations in the area of operation of the 5th Fleet. At IMX/CE 2022, the world’s largest unmanned maritime exercise, TF 59 was at the center of the action.
TF 59 personnel offer expertise related to science, technology and aviation, including Adams, who majored in aeronautical science.
“Nothing is ever boring for our unit,” Adams said. “And there’s a bit of pride in knowing that what we do here, what we conduct, will one day be moved to different areas of operation.”
TRAIN THE FORCE
The Naval Reserve’s Train the Force line of effort focuses on preparing, improving, and supporting Sailors for their mobilization ticket. For a unit like 5th Fleet NCAGS, with personnel performing highly specialized work, a well-trained force is essential. Staffed solely by Naval Reserve sailors, it serves as the communication interface in the Middle East region between naval forces, local port officials and US-flagged merchant vessels.
Unit officers must be either surface warfare officers (SWO) or licensed merchant seamen, depending on Cdr. Phillip Casalegno, the commander of NCAGS 5th Fleet. Such deep ties to the commercial industry and such deep knowledge of how it works is essential in times of crisis or contingency, when the slightest delay can cost lives. In 5th Fleet waters, NCAGS tracks up to 100 US-flagged vessels per day.
“You can’t handle a maritime crisis or event without addressing commercial shipping,” says Casalegno. “NCAGS brings a whole level of depth by adding the commercial browsing experience.”
During IMX/CE 2022, Casalegno and his crew of 17 worked closely with their German Navy NCAGS counterparts in Bahrain and regional ports to share communications practices and strengthen ties between regional naval partners participating in the exercise and merchant ships.
Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Darwin Ivanovich, a Naval Reserve Sailor, was assigned to an NCAGS team stationed in Egypt for the exercise. He said the chance to compete in events like IMX/CE22 is why he serves. “The Naval Reserve is what you make it. If you are looking for opportunities like this exercise, it is so enjoyable and fulfilling.
He added that he particularly enjoys the exchange of ideas inherent in working with international partners. “I can learn from them and then pass on the knowledge that we have to them.”
The Naval Reserve’s “Mobilize Force” line of effort emphasizes more effective delivery of surge capability, sometimes at any time. The ultimate goal is to be able to mobilize the entire naval reserve force within a month.
Almost all of the CTF Sentinel, Task Force 59 and NCAGS cantonments in Bahrain are manned by personnel on mobilization orders. In other words, these units are closely and constantly involved in the Mobilize-to-Billet process, which the Naval Reserve continues to streamline.
A reserve force that is developed, designed, trained, and ready to mobilize is imperative when considering the challenges and threats facing the United States. This is how people like Adams with Task Force 59, or Morris with CTF Sentinel, or Casalegno and Ivanovich with NCAGS, can continue to successfully put the word “serve” into “Reserve”.