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Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC)

Sea Sisters Prepare for Bull Shark Exercise

by Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Maria Amalia Olvera Tristan
30 October 2023 DJIBOUTI, Djibouti (October 30, 2023) Servicewomen from U.S. Navy Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron 11 conducted maritime search and rescue training with servicewomen from the Djiboutian Coast Guard during a joint event called Sea Sisters at Doraleh, Djibouti, on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023.

The day began with an exercise mission brief and a speech from United States Navy Captain Suzanne Krauss, commanding officer of Camp Lemonnier, who acknowledged the hard work of the Djiboutian Coast Guard servicewomen.

“You have all chosen to use your unique, well-earned skills and experiences to help make this country and your loved ones safer,” she said to the servicewomen. “Your strength and your service will inspire young women and girls to do what you are doing. Show them your strength, your intelligence and your capability. They will never forget it.”

The exercise included classroom training by MSRON-11 and a presentation from Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa’s Women Peace and Security (WPS) committee.

After class, teams of U.S. and Djiboutian service women filled three boats to begin a practical maritime search-and-rescue scenario.

The scenario simulated a sunken dhow that had been used to transport victims of illegal trafficking operations. The MSRON-11 convoy team demonstrated how they use tactical vehicles, radio communications and rescue tactics to locate people and safely pull them from the water.

“We execute search and rescue to have a better and bigger chance of locating someone in distress in the least amount of time so that we have a bigger chance to save their lives,” said Machine Repairman 1st Class Gene Hernando, a maritime patrol leader with MSRON 11.

Search and rescue is an important role of the Djiboutian Coast Guard, because of dangerous, illegal human smuggling operations across the Gulf of Aden and the Bab-El-Mandeb Strait. Djiboutian Coast Guard Adjudant Asma Houssein Kidar told the joint team that she has served as a recovery diver for victims of illegal trafficking who have fallen overboard.

“It was a beautiful and profound moment to be part of the Sea Sisters,” said Information Technician 2nd Class Sharon Dormitorio, a tactical operations watch officer with MSRON 11.

“It brought forth the realization that women around the world, regardless of country, race, language, or socio-economic status have something in common,” she said. “We have inherent worth and contribute greatly to society. We can learn from each other and inspire each other, especially through face-to-face interaction and shared experiences. Sea Sisters facilitated that.”

The Sea Sisters event is the first of its kind between the United States and Djibouti. It brought women from partner nations together for a common goal: protect the port of Djibouti.

The event was part of a three-month series of joint training in maritime navigation, boat operations, casualty care and search and rescue tactics. MSRON-11 has partnered with Djiboutian Coast Guard and Navy since August to prepare for the 2023 Bull Shark exercise.

Bull Shark is a biannual exercise that tests water rescue teams on their ability to extract an injured person from the Gulf of Aden and escalate the casualty to a higher echelon of care in a hostile environment.

“We are stronger when we work together,” said U.S. Navy Lieutenant Maraea Toomalatai, MSRON 11 seaward security officer. “Through this partnership, sailors from Djibouti and the United States can protect the port of Djibouti.”

MSRON 11, assigned to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, provides CLDJ’s 38 tenant commands and visiting naval vessels protection through 24/7 port security and escorting operations. CLDJ is an operational installation that enables U.S., allied, and partner nation forces to be where and when they are needed to ensure security in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.