Reserve Sailors Lead Northern Africa Exercise Phoenix Express 2022

US Navy | Jun. 24, 2022

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Haggerty

Members of the Tunisian Navy practice fast roping down a tower during the in-port training phase of exercise Phoenix Express 2022 at Bizerte Naval Base in Bizerte, Tunisia on May 27, 2022 during Exercise Phoenix Express 2022. Phoenix Express 22, conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa, is a maritime exercise designed to improve cooperation among participating nations in order to increase maritime safety and security in the Mediterranean. (U.S. photo by Mass Communication Specialist Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Haggerty/Released)

TUNIS, Tunisia - Navy Reserve Sailors were at the helm of the U.S. Africa Command-sponsored exercise Phoenix Express 2022 in Tunis and Bizerte, Tunisia, May 23 to June 3. The multinational maritime exercise encompassed an in-port information exchange to focus on learning together, and an underway field training exercise designed to enhance cooperation and expertise related to maritime security in the Mediterranean Sea. 

 Reserve Sailors from Commander Naval Forces Europe/Commander Naval Forces Europe-Africa N5 Reserve Detachment, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, were tasked with organizing the exercise in support of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, which led in the execution of the event objectives. 


Exercises like Phoenix Express highlight the ability of Reserve Sailors to be capable warfighters ready to assist global operations at a moment’s notice.

“Mission readiness is being able to fill whatever role we are being asked to perform,” said Capt. Eilis Cancel, exercise director and commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa N5 Reserve Detachment.

According to Cancel, there’s an urgent need for each Reserve Sailor to stay up-to-date on Navy training requirements, be knowledgeable about each billet and maintain both an awareness and an understanding of the organization in which they operate. 

“During PE22, I’ve observed the skill and dedication of the Reserve Sailors under my command,” Cancel said. “They’ve displayed their warfighting specialties and their ability to apply it to an exercise environment. This gives me a great deal of confidence in their ability to utilize their skills in real-world scenarios.”

Reserve requirements to fly outside the contiguous United States (OCONUS) to participate in the exercise included completing medical assessments and immunizations, obtaining country clearances and verifying annual isolated personnel reports (ISOPREP).

“Once the Reserve Sailor is in the fleet, they must be prepared and ready to perform when activated,” said Cancel.

“This exercise is particularly useful because we get real world military experience to build onto our schoolhouse training,” said Information Specialist 1st Class Justin Petrilena, “It’s beneficial to see what a mission looks like and track what is expected of us. Active Training (AT) is great but I feel being combat-ready means the ability to utilize sailor skill sets.”

Phoenix Express 2022 focused specifically on maritime security operations to counter illegal activities in the Mediterranean, such as human trafficking, smuggling, and illicit, unreported and unregulated fishing. During the exercise, a combined maritime operations center was stood up in an expeditionary location where watch teams conducted communication drills and practiced regional information sharing. The center directed the exercise’s multinational surface action group and aircraft in ship boarding, airborne maritime patrol operations and search-and-rescue drills.

“I was able to observe everything in the Combined Maritime Operation Center (CMOC) floor,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Robert Kelleher. “I feel like these experiences play a large part in getting me ready to go out to the fleet being mission and warfighting ready.” 

Phoenix Express provides an opportunity to work side-by-side to better synchronize and rehearse for potential real-world scenarios, and create an environment where the U.S. and participants learn from each other.

“Going through these exercises has helped me get ready for real-world situations,” said Petrilena. “Everything from logistics to operations is run mainly by Reserve Sailors, but we also have active component Sailors. Even though we get tasked with the same problems, the scenarios help me see how the active side approaches the situations. Seeing that helps me to learn and adapt operationally. Participating in PE22 has given me more confidence if I were to deploy tomorrow.”

PE22 is an example of the Navy Reserve’s efforts to achieve warfighting readiness by transforming the way it designs, trains, mobilizes and develops the Force.

Vice Adm. John B. Mustin, Chief of Navy Reserve and Commander, Navy Reserve Force, released a revised Navy Reserve Fighting Instruction to the Reserve Force in may 2022 via ALNAVRESFOR 020/22.