More than 200 U.S. Navy personnel recently finished a three-day weapons of mass destruction interdiction exercise called Anatolian Sun.

The exercise, which included military forces and civilian officials from Turkey, France, Portugal and the U.S., was conducted in and around Antalya, Turkey. It ended Friday.

Military representatives from an additional 36 Asian and European nations, including Iraq, observed the exercise, which is designed to stop the movement of WMD shipments at sea, in the air or on land.

U.S. forces taking part in the exercise included the frigate USS Nicholas and a P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft.

Anatolian Sun, according to spokesman Lt. Chris Servello, included two days of in-port exercises and one day at sea.

The at-sea portion involved a merchant ship pulling out of the Turkish port without notifying authorities. With its departure, officials detect a chemical, biological or radiological substance in its cargo, and maritime surveillance aircraft are sent to find the ship.

Once spotted from the air, explained Cmdr. William Silkman, the Nicholas’ commanding officer, naval forces move in and board the vessel after receiving permission from the Turkish task group commander.

“We have up to an 18-man team, created from three six-man teams,” Silkman said, explaining that the size of a boarding team is dependent on the size of the ship it is expecting to board.

Boarding teams from other nations’ vessels also took part, said Lt. j.g. Jay Boyles. These teams worked together to search the ship, sharing tactics and working towards streamline boarding procedures between the different nations, he explained.

“Communications is definitely the biggest part when you have multiple countries doing a boarding,” said Boyles, one of Nicholas’ boarding officers. “That makes it more difficult. It’s good we get to practice.”

Once the vessel was boarded, Servello said, it was to be sent back to Antalya for a detailed search by Turkish customs officials.

Boarding ships believed to be taking part in terrorist-related activities is part of NATO’s Operation Active Endeavour, which was started after Sept. 11, 2001.

This is the 22nd exercise of this nature conducted in the Mediterranean region and the first hosted by Turkey.

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