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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Bryan Niegel, Navy Office of Community Outreach

MILLINGTON, Tenn. – A Burlington, Wisconsin, native serving as a Navy reservist with Navy Region Europe, Africa, Central in Naples supports exercise Cutlass Express 2021 (CE21) in Mombasa, Kenya.

The exercise is an annual maritime exercise conducted to promote national and regional maritime security in East Africa and the Western Indian Ocean.

Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas Kach joined the Navy 19 years ago for the opportunities serving provides. Today, Kach serves as an intelligence specialist and joined the Navy to keep their family tradition.

“Serving is a family tradition, my entire family is in the Marine Corps or Army,” said Kach. “They wanted me to have a more solid career longevity than something in infantry.” 

Growing up in Burlington, Kach attended Westosha High School and graduated in 1991. Kach then went on to earn a Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice from University of Milwaukee in 1996. 

Working as the training assistant coordinator for the Joint Operations Center for CE21, Kach’s learned experience in other exercises has helped with this mission.

“I’ve supported exercises before, as well as being stationed on the USS Enterprise and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006,” said Kach. “I was also implanted with the Army in 2009-2010.” 

Kach feels that participating in CE21 is import because it builds rapport with partner nations.

“We want to establish and maintain that partnership in peacetime because it will give an even flow during any future conflicts,” said Kach.  “People don’t think about how much goes into big operations but it’s important to continually be familiar on every aspect.”  

According to Navy officials, maritime forces from East Africa, West Indian Ocean nations, Europe, North America, and several international organizations began the multinational maritime exercise CE21 with an opening ceremony held at the Bandari Maritime Academy in Mombasa, Kenya, July 26, 2021.

The exercise sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, U.S. Sixth Fleet, assesses and improves combined maritime law enforcement capacity, promotes national and regional security in East Africa, and increases interoperability between the U.S., African nations, and international partners.

This year’s exercise leverages the recently adopted Jeddah Amendment to the Djibouti Code of Conduct, which 14 nations are signatories, as a framework for exercising information sharing practices and enforcing marine rule of law. The participating nations will be testing their ability to counter illicit trafficking, piracy, illegal fishing, as well as search and rescue situations.

Though there are many opportunities for sailors to earn recognition in their command, community, and careers, Kach is most proud of receiving a special coin. 

“I served at Guantanamo Bay in 2014-2015 and worked with the interpreters,” said Kach. “Receiving a command coin from Marine Gen. John Kelly, who was in charge of Central Command was a huge accomplishment.” 

As a member of the U.S. Navy, Kach, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs, and humanitarian assistance. Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who will follow.

“It’s a pleasure getting back in the groove of things doing joint exercises,” added Kach. “ It’s nice to go back to supporting our allies and partners across the world.”