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NEWS | May 1, 2024

5th Fleet Reserve Sailors Build Warfighting Readiness in MAKO Storm 2024

Reserve Sailors from the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. 5th Fleet enterprise developed and tested their warfighting readiness from April 18 to April 21 on board Naval Station Norfolk during Mako Storm 2024.  

Some 105 Reserve Sailors took part in the third annual Mako Storm exercise at the Navy Warfare Development Center, learning and following NAVCENT procedures for maritime operations, including intelligence briefings and logistics planning, and responses to medical emergencies -- all designed to prepare them to fill the roles of their active-component counterparts at a moment’s notice. 

The immersive training introduced many Reserve Sailors to the maritime operations center experience and the roles they will play during an actual event.  

“I’ve learned a lot about what an intelligence specialist does on a watch floor,” said Intelligence Specialist 3rd Class Shea Outlaw, the lead intelligence analyst in Mako Storm 2024. “An exercise like Mako Storm allows me to see exactly what my role would be in a real-life scenario.” 

Mentorship is a foundational component of Mako Storm 2024 and the broad Mako series, which includes Mako Challenge, Mako Sentry and Mako Global. 

“The mentors here are stellar,” Outlaw said. “They’ve been able to answer my questions or guide me in using critical thinking to find the answer.”  

This year’s Mako Storm included multiple Sailors who served as mentors to watch standers. Among them was Cmdr. Matt Packard, the MOC advisor in NR NAVCENT/C5F’s N3 unit, who served as a mentor for battle watch captains and fleet watch officers in the fleet command center cell. 

Packard explained the importance of not only mentors, but cross-enterprise, collaborative unit training. 

 “Mako Storm 2024 is an outstanding environment to conduct training across all NR NAVCENT/C5F units,” he said. “The 12 units are split up in different locations around the U.S., and that makes it very challenging to conduct face-to-face training with everyone at the same time. Mako Storm is the only opportunity we have to get the NAVCENT Reserve units together and conduct training that they will take with them to the NAVCENT watch floor in Bahrain.” 

 The Mako series provides unique opportunities for Reserve Sailors to develop networks that are crucial for unit cohesion and professional development, and to forge lasting personal connections and friendships, Packard said. 

 “In the exercise environment, Sailors are focused solely on fighting the problem at hand,” Packard said. “Outside of that, they can make connections for professional development, which can further enhance the value of training.”  

He also stressed the value of giving Reserve Sailors access to training equipment and resources that mirror what is in use in the NAVCENT MOC.  

 “Sailors can’t access this level of operational level of war training or maritime operations center systems at their Navy Reserve Centers, which are focused on administrative readiness,” Packard said. “In the Navy Warfare Development Center facility, they get significant hands-on training and experience to take to the fleet.” 

Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Steve Ramirez joined the exercise as a red cell database manager, assisting with the creation of simulated challenges and threat. As a prior active-duty Sailor and a NAVCENT veteran, he found value in the training environment and an opportunity to expand his knowledge base. 

 “Participating in this year’s MAKO STORM has allowed me to ask questions of officers to gain more big picture awareness,” Ramirez said. “When you’re doing this job in the fleet, you don’t get a chance to talk to officers much because you have to focus on your role and complete your task. In this training environment, I get to interact with them and ask them what they would do, or what I should do, in certain situations. So, it is very valuable knowledge I can take with me to future assignments in the fleet.” 

Among the senior leaders who attended the exercise and spoke with Sailors were Vice Adm. John Mustin, the chief of the Navy Reserve; Rear Adm. Kenneth Blackmon, the vice commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command and the operational level of war force design flag champion for the Navy Reserve; and Rear Adm. Marc Lederer, the reserve deputy for installations and logistics in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. 

Rear Adm. Jeff Jurgemeyer, the NAVCENT/C5F vice commander, participated fully in the battle rhythm.  

 “The Navy Reserve heavily invests in exercises like Mako Storm because they have a great return on investment,” Jurgemeyer said. “Mako Storm gives our Reserve Sailors a thorough understanding of what they will be doing on the NAVCENT watch floor.” 

 Further, he said, in an increasingly dynamic global security environment, exercises such as Mako Storm 2024 reflect the crucial role Reserve Sailors play in current operations. 

 “If you follow the news, you know that the Middle East is a busy place lately,” Jurgemeyer said. “NAVCENT is putting significant resources into maintaining security and stability in the region. If a Reserve Sailor wants to get in the game and play at the varsity level, then NAVCENT is the place to be.” 

 NAVCENT/C5F is the maritime component commander of U.S. Central Command in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, which encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water in the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse comprises more than 20 countries and includes three critical choke points: the Suez Canal, and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait and the Strait of Hormuz.