On board USS San Antonio (LPD 17), Navy and Coast Guard boarding teams ,which are part of Combined Task Force 151, a multinational counterpiracy task force, train to ensure safe and successful operations in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Red Sea and Indian Ocean.
"Our visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams will play a central role here, as will the ship's ability to survey the water and air space to search for suspected pirates," said Lt. Cmdr. Sean Kearns, San Antonio's executive officer.
San Antonio has 14 Navy VBSS team members, which includes two Navy boarding officers. The Coast Guard personnel are members of Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 405. The detachment is comprised of eight members, all of whom are qualified as boarding officers.
Each boarding team currently conducting the CTF 151 mission includes both Navy and Coast Guard personnel. The size of each team is dependent on the size and type of the suspect vessel the teams must board.
"Our role in CTF 151 is to augment and train the San Antonio's VBSS team; the LEDET has years of boarding experience and collectively has safely completed hundreds of vessel boardings," said Lt.j.g. Greg Ponzi, officer in charge, LEDET 405.
The combined San Antonio and Coast Guard boarding teams are well-prepared for the CTF 151 mission having worked together earlier in the deployment.
"We've also conducted significant amounts of training alongside the various embarked forces, learning to work effectively together and to leverage off of each other's capabilities to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts," said Kearns.
The teams have trained each day in topics such as boarding policy, maritime laws, evidence handling, handcuffing, defensive tactics and searches.
The members of LEDET 405 are instructing the Navy VBSS team in boarding procedures, evidence package preparation and safe and humane treatment of suspects.
"Our goal is to combine our two services to ensure safe and successful operations," said Ponzi. "The top priority of any boarding team is the safety of the boarding team and the success of the mission."
The Coast Guard and Navy boarding teams will board suspect vessels in order to detect, deter and disrupt piracy activities.
"This is a law enforcement operation to deter piracy and make the waters safe for all nations," added Ponzi.
Both boarding teams are working together to ensure that all law enforcement actions are completed. The teams will collect all evidence to aid in potential prosecution.
"Piracy is one of three international crimes and one that the United Nations Security Council has given special attention to in the past year," said Ponzi.
Coalition air and sea assets aim to compel suspect vessels to stop and comply with the boarding team. Coalition forces have worked together to curb the threat of piracy.
"This mission is described as an antipiracy mission, which is true, but in a broader sense, it is also the mission that has been the central focus of the U.S. Navy since its inception, and that is maritime security," said Kearns. "This is about keeping the international waters of the world open to free, safe and unencumbered access by mariners, not only for our nation, but for all nations.
"This is one of the missions that our Navy was first created to perform, and it is what we have continued to train for and perform ever since."
USS San Antonio is the flagship for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151. The multinational counterpiracy task force was established to create a lawful maritime order and to develop security in the maritime environment.
(Source: Navy News Service)