Neon Defender is an annual exercise joining forces from the US and the Kingdom of Bahrain. US Marines from Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team Central Command participate in ground medical evacuation training on May 10, 2022, in Bahrain's Ras Al Qarain, during the last round of maneuvers. The exercise kicked off again on Jan. 15, 2023. US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Benjamin McDonald.
Only seven months after capping Neon Defender 2022, military forces from the US and Kingdom of Bahrain are repeating their annual bilateral maritime maneuvers in the Persian Gulf.
The 10-day exercise kicked off Sunday, Jan. 15, off Bahrain. This year’s focus falls on maritime operations and tactics, installation defense, expeditionary operations, medical response, and search and rescue training.
“We are very excited to begin the new year training side by side with the Kingdom of Bahrain, a longstanding, strategic partner,” said US Navy Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of the US 5th Fleet, which is headquartered in Manama, the capital of Bahrain.
US 5th Fleet estimates that roughly 200 personnel from the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard will participate in this year’s exercises, including the crews of the coastal patrol ships Monsoon and Chinook.
Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, the US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, escorts Sen. Jacky Rosen and Sen. James Lankfordin Bahrain on Jan. 15, 2023.US Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Murphy.
The beginning of the Persian Gulf naval exercise coincided with a visit from a bipartisan congressional delegation to Manama.
The trip is designed to show US support for the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the Middle Eastern nations, plus the recognition of Israel as a sovereign state.
Rosen and Lankford were joined on the junket by Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York; Mark Kelly, of Arizona, and Colorado’s Michael Bennet, plus Republicans Dan Sullivan, of Alaska, and North Carolina’s Ted Budd.
“The historic Abraham Accords have transformed the Middle East – paving the way for unprecedented cooperation and normalization between Israel and Arab partners,” said Sen. Rosen in a prepared statement. “The Accords are already contributing to all four countries’ economies and helping them work together to combat Iranian aggression. My colleagues and I look forward to meeting with senior government officials, business leaders, and civil society organizations to discuss how we can strengthen the relationships fostered by the Accords and expand them to new countries.”
US Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, talks with sailors from The Last Frontier state during lunch in Manama, Bahrain, on Jan. 15, 2023. US Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Murphy.
The senators met with Vice Adm. Cooper and other sailors on Sunday, the same day Bahrain’s ruler, King Hamad bin Isa Al- Khalifa, welcomed the caucus to Al-Safriya Palace.
The regent “praised the pivotal role played by the USA in establishing peace, security and stability, as well as in strengthening the pillars of global peace, commending the active efforts of the countries of the region and the USA in all fields, particularly in securing the protection of international navigation, oil supplies and world trade, stressing the Kingdom's keenness to support and strengthen these efforts,” according to the state-controlled Bahrain News Agency.
Neither Iran’s Foreign Ministry nor Tehran’s state-controlled media commented on the delegation’s Middle Eastern tour.
Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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