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Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC)

CTF-68 Seabee Divers and Georgia Coast Guard Build Partnership in the Black Sea

by Courtesy Story
28 November 2023 U.S. Navy Seabee divers assigned to Commander Task Force (CTF) 68 conducted a six-week exercise with the Georgian Coast Guard in Batumi and Poti, Georgia in an effort to build a stronger relationship and improve maritime security.
CTF-68 sent divers assigned to Underwater Construction Team ONE (UCT 1), to Georgia from mid-September to the end of October to work with Georgian Coast Guard divers to begin port security infrastructure enhancements in Batumi and Poti. The project adds new security features to the ports and is part of a larger maritime domain awareness program that provides U.S. assistance to the Georgian Coast Guard in coordination with complimentary NATO and Allies and partners efforts.
The port security enhancement project required the divers and Georgian Coast Guard personnel to complete a range of tasks involving small boat operations, diving, underwater concrete placement, hydrographic and topographic surveying, and use of underwater hydraulic tools.

“Coming to Georgia and working with the Georgia Coast Guard has been a fantastic experience,” said Chief Equipment Operator, Joey Rodriguez, Master Diver, assigned to UCT 1 Dive Detachment Bravo. “We are very excited to visit Georgia and experience the culture and hospitality of our new friends.”

During their deployment to Georgia, the Seabee divers were also able to assist with development a new European Command Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) program with the Georgian Coast Guard and the Georgian Special Forces Maritime Detachment (MARDET). This program will build the Georgian capability to respond to explosive threats within Georgian maritime territory. The Seabee divers conducted a review of the Georgian Coast Guard divers training, equipment and maintenance programs in order to make recommendations on how the new HMA program should progress.

Since a floating sea mine exploded near a beach in Batumi last February, the Georgian Coast Guard has prioritized building the capacity and capability to deal with this new threat to maritime commerce and public safety.

“We have an acute focus on building the overall Georgia Coast Guard capability, specifically the ability to respond to drifting sea mines,” said Captain Ramaz Papidze, commander of the Georgian Coast Guard. “We intend to increase the quantity of divers within the Georgian Coast Guard and enhance our Maritime Domain Awareness. We are very happy to host the U.S. Navy Divers here in Georgia again.”

The Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi are important ports to U.S. 6th Fleet as Georgia plays a critical role in maintaining security and stability in the Black Sea and is a valuable partner in this region. “The work completed by UCT 1 was nothing short of superb and is symbolic of our strong relationship with the Georgian Coast Guard” said Mr. Steve Bower, U.S. Maritime Advisor to the Georgia Border Police. “The team integrated seamlessly with the Georgian Coast Guard and overcame many challenges to make this mission a success.”

CTF-68 has conducted numerous exercises with both the Georgian Coast Guard and Georgian Army over the last year, including the building of a new intermodal railhead project at the Port of Poti which enables the Georgian Ministry of Defense to distribute cargo and heavy equipment across the Caucasus region.

“What the Seabees in Poti have been doing with my engineers is incredible” said Lt. Col. Levan Shubiti, commanding officer of Combat Engineer Battalion West, Republic of Georgia Army. “We are very excited to have an opportunity to learn new construction skills and partner with the U.S. Navy Seabees.”

Underwater Construction Team 1 is forward deployed to execute construction, humanitarian assistance, and theater security cooperation in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe and 6th Fleet areas of operation in direct support of CTF-68. CTF-68, headquartered in Rota, Spain, commands all Navy Expeditionary Forces in U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of responsibility and is responsible for providing EOD operations, naval construction, expeditionary security, and theater security efforts in direct support of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and U.S. 6th Fleet.

For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability. Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. 6th Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.