Conducted the Navy's large-scale exercise 2021 from a tent in Little Creek

Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, speaks to a group of Sailors he intends to visit during a visit to the Expeditionary Maritime Operations Center (ExMOC) at U.S. 2nd Fleet Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story on. present a challenge coin on August 11th in support of the Large-Scale Exercise (LSE) 2021. (Jahlena Royer / US Navy)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (Tribune News Service) – U.S. 2nd Fleet planners and operations personnel typically direct east coast ships and units from the second floor of their headquarters. But a recently completed global Navy exercise brought a team of more than 50 to a tent in Little Creek to practice in war-like conditions.

“You never really know what to do until match day,” said Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, commanding officer of the Second Cold War.

Operating at an ad hoc naval operations center – like the 760 square foot tent in Little Creek, where torrential rains blew mud through the floorboards – is a specialty of the 2nd Fleet. It was the seventh such operations center the fleet has operated since the Navy re-established in 2018.

Most recently, this meant that the fleet’s vice-in-command, Canadian Rear Admiral Steve Waddell, along with staff from Norfolk – including a French temporary naval officer – ran the maritime operations center in Europe.

The 2nd Fleet Group set up their temporary shop on an unknown US Navy warship with home port in Italy and conducted operations off the coast of Portugal.

The 2nd Fleet has a strong international character, as its commander is also responsible for NATO’s new Joint Force Command Norfolk, which is responsible for operations in the North Atlantic “from Florida to Finnmark (northernmost Norway) and from the seabed to space”. as Lewis likes to say.

“It was as if two start-ups had gotten up to speed in just a few years,” said Lewis, who assumed responsibility for the relaunch of the 2nd fleet and at the same time took over the leadership of the new NATO command.

Running the operations center for this year’s NATO exercise was an intense exercise in managing ships, sailors, marines and airmen from 10 nations, including the largest deployment of Fleet Air Arm helicopters in a decade.

“I can’t stress how important the alliance is,” said Lewis. “It differs from the United States in that we have friends and we keep friends.”

While working in the tent in Little Creek, fleet personnel, sailors and marines simulated rapid transfers of responsibility and reporting channels that arise in dealing with a global threat.

“It’s about transparency … you have to know who’s on the other end of the line,” said Lewis.

The large-scale exercise was an opportunity for the 2nd Fleet Navy Expeditionary Combat Command and Little Creek to practice not only building an ad hoc operations center, but also allowing fleet personnel to work with reservists.

“This training takes Marines and Sailors out of garrison mode and immerses us in a war scenario,” said Col. Robert Clark of the US Marine Corps, the 2nd Fleet staff officer in charge of Little Creek Operations Center.

Lewis’ role in the exercise included “multiple points of contact” with the east coast-based carrier task forces and amphibious vessels participating in the exercise.

Some were at sea. USS Kearsarge trained new concepts for combined Navy and Marine Corps operations. The destroyers USS Cole and Gravely conducted anti-submarine missions.

Some worked virtually, like the sailors on the USS San Jacinto, on a pier at Norfolk Naval Station. Their mission was the same as at sea, they led the anti-aircraft and missile defense of the USS Harry S. Truman carrier attack force. And while physically in Norfolk, they were practically operating off the Norwegian coast.

A key job for Lewis was coordinating operations with his colleagues on four other fleets that span 17 time zones. That part, along with the operations center and communication across the chain of command, went well, he said.

But it took a lot of work.

With more than 25,000 Sailors and Marines on 36 vessels at sea and more than 50 other piers participating, “it was a 24/7 exercise,” said Lewis.

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