Building the US-UK Alliance in the 7th Fleet

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Karsten

YOKOSUKA, Japan – The U.S. 7th Fleet welcomed the United Kingdom’s first Royal Navy Personnel Exchange Program officer, joining 7th Fleet in Fiscal Year 2015 to strengthen the alliance between the two countries’ maritime forces in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

Cmdr. Simon Staley, originally from Portsmouth, England, is an active duty officer in the U.K. Navy, but his mission for the next nine months is to serve on the 7th Fleet Staff as a Royal Navy liaison officer through a selective navy-to-navy exchange program.

“As the only British Officer in Japan behind the Defence Attaché, I am charged with building relationships within 7th Fleet, understanding the environment better to inform U.K. policy and navy operational training, and to make a valuable contribution to the thinking, practices and effectiveness that the 7th fleet staff delivers to this region daily, said Staley. “It is truly a privilege to be here recognizing not only the significance of becoming a 7th Fleet Staff officer, but also the responsibility of the ambassadorial role I have for the Royal Navy and indeed the U.K. here in Japan. Collectively, we have much to learn from each other.”

Staley was chosen for the assignment based on his stellar record and extensive 27-year military background and experience in both surface warfare and aviation. He started his career as a surface warfare officer and served as the second in command of a minesweeper before becoming a naval flight officer in the Sea King Airborne Early Warning helicopter, the British equivalent of the E2 Hawkeye. He later served as the commanding officer of the destroyer HMS York (D98). Staley has staff experience in Iraq, Canada and London and has worked along side the U.S. military before conducting joint operations with the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group in the Atlantic and conducting operations in the Caribbean, Atlantic, Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.

“I think as a commander with post surface command and deep routed aviation experience, it allows me to have a slightly different perspective on how operations and tactics can affect strategic political and military messaging,” said Staley. “From that mindset, and being from a different country, albeit one with an extraordinary close relationship with the U.S., I can ask those searching questions to the staffs and Task Forces that ordinarily don’t get aired. If the answer leads to change for the better then that’s great, particularly if it aligns with the commander’s priorities of fleet sustainment, operational excellence and horizontal and vertical alignment”.

Staley is also tasked with establishing the position of U.K. Liaison Officer to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), the first since the 1920’s. He will not only establish open dialogue with his Japanese counterparts, but also study the relationship between the U.S. and Japanese and the strong alliance between the U.S. 7th Fleet and the JMSDF.

“At the end of the day, we are all mariners, we all understand the sea, and we all want to ensure access and security of those maritime highways and 9 key global choke points through which over 90% of our world trade flows daily – they are our lifelines,” said Staley. “The U.S. Navy undertakes a critically global role in policing the seas, and encouraging all users to observe those international rules and norms that keep our seas safe and open.  Japan and the U.K, as island nations utterly dependant on the sea for everything from fuel to grain, are aligned and play our part. Our collective job is to ensure no interruption to quality of life, nor impact to economic, environmental or social development for every country”.

The personnel exchange program started as a conversation last year between Vice Adm. Thomas and Adm. Sir George Michael Zambellas, chief of the Naval Staff of the Royal Navy. The decision to have a permanent U.K. Navy liaison in the region was decided to be beneficial for both nations since the U.K. Navy does not have a permanent operational presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

“We may not physically have ships here all the time, but we have an intense economic interest with multiple countries in this region.  It is therefore important that I am here to reassure those who doubt the U.K.’s interest and intent to support security and economic development,” said Staley. “The opportunity afforded me by Vice Adm. Thomas in including me in his office calls and overseas visits with the senior military commanders of Indo-Asia-Pacific nations sends a strong message of inclusion and U.S./U.K. alignment.”

“It is truly an honor being an ambassador for my country and having the opportunity to meet and work with people who are so professional and sociably great, and to see this region from a new perspective – to see how busy and important it is for maritime and global security,” said Staley.

The U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Asia- Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy’s largest numbered fleet, 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build maritime partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability and prevent conflict.

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