By Rick Burke, Navy Office of Community Outreach
MILLINGTON, Tenn. – A 1994 North Stafford High School graduate, 1998 graduate of George Mason University, and a 2007 West Virginia University School of Medicine graduate and native of Fredericksburg, Virginia, participated in Exercise Phoenix Express 2021, the 16th iteration of the North African maritime exercise that began on May 17, 2021, in Tunis, Tunisia, and throughout the Mediterranean Sea.
Eleven nations operated together through May 28 to increase regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities, enhancing efforts to promote safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea and territorial waters of participating North African nations.
The 11 nations that participated in Phoenix Express 2021 included Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain and the United States.
Cmdr. Kristina Polk played a key role in supporting the exercise as the Senior Medical Officer.
“My team and I were responsible for providing Role 1 care to any U.S. personnel on this exercise, and to engage in an exchange of medical knowledge with North African partner nations,” said Polk. “Specifically, we provided TCCC (Tactical Combat Casualty Care) knowledge and skills at the pier which partners can utilize in the case of a traumatic injury at sea. I was responsible for tracking all diseases and injuries occurred during the exercise, and helped coordinate transport, admission, or evacuation of U.S. personnel, if needed. I also participated in a virtual engagement discussing pandemic preparation.”
Exercise Phoenix Express is one of three regional maritime exercises executed by U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) as part of a comprehensive strategy to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners that addresses maritime security concerns.
This year’s exercise control group was hosted at the La Goulette naval base in Tunis, Tunisia. The at-sea portion of the exercise tested North African, European, and U.S. maritime forces’ abilities to respond to irregular migration and to combat illicit trafficking and the movement of illegal goods and materials.
“Exercise Phoenix Express is an opportunity for the U.S. Navy to work side-by-side with our allies and partners to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners in order to address maritime security concerns,” said Rear Adm. Jeffrey S. Spivey, director, maritime partnership program, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa. “May we continue to further the region’s capacity to secure and protect its maritime domain through cooperation and teamwork.”
With more than 90 percent of all trade traveling by sea, and 95 percent of the world’s international phone and internet traffic carried through fiber optic cables lying on the ocean floor, Navy officials continue to emphasize that the prosperity and security of the United States is directly linked to a strong and ready Navy.
As a member of the U.S. Navy, Polk, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance. Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who will follow.
“It has been an honor to represent the U.S. Navy in our medical knowledge exchanges with our partner nations,” added Polk. “This exercise has highlighted the similar objectives and goals of our partner nations, and has brought us together in the shared mission of global maritime security.”