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UNITAS exercise commences in Brazil

SALVADOR, Brazil (Apr. 15, 2011) Capt. Jose Barradas of Mexico, Vice Adm. Carlos Autran De Oliviera Amaral and Rear Adm. Edlander Santos of Bazil, and Capt. Marc Weeks, the Atlantic Phase Task Group commanders for the multilateral exercise Unitas 52, speak with reporters at a press conference to start the exercise. Three U.S. Navy ships and one U.S. Coast Guard cutter arrived in Salvador, Brazil to begin the exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steve Smith/Released)SALVADOR, Brazil (NNS) -- Three U.S. Navy ships and one U.S. Coast Guard cutter arrived in Salvador, Brazil for the start of UNITAS Atlantic phase (LANT) 52, April 15.

Guided-missile frigates USS Boone (FFG 28) and USS Thach (FFG 43), guided-missile destroyer Nitze (DDG 98) and USCGC Escanaba (WMEC 907) will participate in the three-week long exercise until its conclusion, May 9. UNITAS LANT 52 includes navies from Brazil, United States, Argentina and Mexico.

"As we respond globally to a variety of urgent challenges to include the relief efforts in Japan and supporting U.N. and NATO efforts in Libya, to name but two; sending this many ships to Brazil for the UNITAS exercise is not without great cost," said Capt. Mark Weeks, U.S. UNITAS LANT mission commander. "However, we make this commitment to UNITAS, because it is so very important that militaries must work diligently together so that our Nations can prosper in a stable and secure environment."

The partner countries will operate and train together in scenario-based environments, which include theater security operations, anti-terrorism and anti-narcotic operations, live-fire exercises, humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Nine surface ships, six helicopters, two submarines and patrol craft are participating in the exercise.

"We will have the opportunity to conduct many complex maritime exercises that allow all participants the opportunity to conduct gunnery events, practice engaging aircraft and missiles, conducting replenishments at sea and operate against submarines," said Weeks. "We are very excited as UNITAS provides unparalleled training opportunities and our host, the Brazil navy has done a remarkable job in designing this UNITAS."

The exercise will allow U.S. Sailors and Coast Guardsmen the opportunity to work and train side-by-side with sailors of the Latin American navies and build relationships. The relationships that develop from this exercise will help foster cooperation and understanding between participating countries.

"UNITAS provides us a venue to foster trust, cooperation and transparency with regional maritime security services and prepare our people to work together to solve regional and global security and stability challenges," said Weeks. "UNITAS continues to grow in terms of complexity, importance, and utility, perhaps best demonstrated during the recent maritime response to the Haiti earthquake. UNITAS 52 affords us great opportunity to bring together mariners from across the Americas in a true exchange of ideas, collaboration and maritime partnership."

UNITAS, Latin for "unity," is a combined South American and U.S.-sponsored annual exercise series. Active participants for UNITAS LANT 52 include Brazil, the United States, Argentina and Mexico.

COMUSNAVSO/COMFOURTHFLT supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

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