USS MOUNT WHITNEY, At Sea: The 37th annual Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) exercise 2009 concluded June 19 after 14 days of multinational operations in the Baltic Sea.

The exercise encompassed 43 ships from 12 countries with more than 200 training events, all focused on strengthening maritime security and partnerships in the Baltic Sea.

“Anytime you get nations from one area to work together with nations from another in the spirit of cooperation, you build relationships that are available to help you in any real-world situation,” said Rear Adm. John N. Christenson, commander of Carrier Strike Group 12 and tactical commander of BALTOPS 2009.

This year’s BALTOPS started off for the first time in Karlskrona, Sweden, with four days of sporting events, social gatherings and receptions, all designed to develop interpersonal relationships with the participating Sailors.

The evidence of the tactical benefits of these relationships was put to the test on the first day underway when 12 ships communicated with each other on various frequencies to complete a tight echelon formation. This type of communication-reliant advanced maneuver has never been attempted on the first day of previous BALTOPS.

Partnerships continued to grow throughout the exercise, Christenson said, and the relationships were a key factor in the execution of numerous training operations ranging from compliant and non-compliant boarding, submarine recognition, medical evacuations, mass casualty drills and mine countermeasure operations.

Christenson added that BALTOPS led to many real-life successes outside of the exercise realm. The sea floor was made safer for Sailors and civilians when Swedish Mine Hunter HSwMS Faaroesund (MUL-20) made a discovery that led to the detonation of three mines and one British torpedo, all from World War II.

“This was an excellent opportunity for training together,” said Swedish Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jorgen Bergman, a planning advisor aboard the amphibious command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20). “This is the first time Sweden has taken such an intensive role in an exercise like this.”

BALTOPS came to a close with a large unscripted tactical exercise during which 30 ships were put into a two-team, simulated battle-at-sea using all the training they received. The simulation lasted three days and ended with a post operation brief.

The majority of the exercise fleet will pull into Kiel, Germany, and hold a reception celebrating the successful completion of BALTOPS.

BALTOPS aims to enhance maritime safety and security in the Baltic Sea through increased interoperability and cooperation among regional allies.