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U.S. Navy, Lebanese military to improve construction, humanitarian capabilities

By Jake Thomas
U.S. Navy, Lebanese military to improve construction, humanitarian capabilities
The U.S. Navy Ship Choctaw County, pictured preparing to dock at Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait, arrived in Beirut on Monday to participate in the first-ever Central Partnership Station in the Navy's Central Command area of responsibility. Photo by Staff Sgt. Veronica McNabb/U.S. Army National Guard

Sept. 21 (UPI) -- The USNS Choctaw County has arrived in Beirut, Lebanon, to participate in a first-of-its-kind mission intended to strengthen military ties between the countries, the U.S. Navy said Tuesday.

As part of the mission, Central Partnership Station, the U.S. Navy and Lebanese armed forces will exchange subject matter experts on topics including mine countermeasures, disaster response, public health and construction capabilities.

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Explosive ordnance disposal technicians, Navy divers, medical and health engagement team and a construction battalion will work alongside their Lebanese counterparts, according to the U.S. Navy.

The construction battalion is building a maritime security support facility with engineers from the Lebanese Armed Forces.

RELATED Navy, Marines enter Middle East-based U.S. 5th Fleet for training

The exercise is intended to help the Lebanese armed forces conduct mine countermeasures, naval construction, disaster-related public health activities and deliver goods like baby formula to partner nations, 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told Defense News.

The Navy has carried out similar exercises in the U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

"We're doing it in the Middle East because we recognize that there's an opportunity to build partner capacity as well as do some humanitarian work that is needed," Hawkins said.

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Last week, the U.S. Navy's Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit also arrived in the Arabian Sea to begin training exercises.

The two units entered the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to conduct drills with regional and coalition partners.

The Navy said in a press release that the drills will be conducted alongside regional and coalition partners in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, a vast area of 2.5 million square miles of water that includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.

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On Friday, the U.S. Navy's Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit transited through the Strait of Hormuz, a strategically critical waterway that links the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

The units were joined by amphibious transport dock USS Portland, dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor, guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy, expeditionary sea base ship USS Lewis B. Puller and dry cargo and ammunition ship USS Wally Schirra.

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