The U.S. Coast Guard’s Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 102 is teaching Iraqi marines valuable skills that will help them protect Iraqi infrastructure and territorial waters in the future.
Embarked aboard USS Ogden (LPD 5) in the North Persian Gulf as part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 158, the eight-man Coast Guard team routinely trains the Iraqi marine platoons in Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) operations through a series of almost daily staged events.
“We are basically teaching them use of force, tactical procedures in terms of boarding ships and how to handle a large crew,” said Lt. j.g. Torrey Bertheau, officer in charge of LEDET 102. “The goal of the training is for the Iraqi marines to become autonomous and to conduct their own boardings without any coalition support.”
Each of the Iraqi marine platoons spend a week aboard Ogden and use the ship as a simulated oil tanker. U.S. Coast Guardsmen enact the roles of the tanker’s crew members.
The Americans and Iraqis go through worst-case scenarios, so that means sometimes the Iraqis have to get tough on the uncooperative "crew members." Fortunately, the San Diego-based trainers say the Iraqis are quick learners and are picking up the methods and techniques.
“They’re very receptive to our training,” said Bertheau. “I think they genuinely want to learn these tactics for themselves, and they’re pretty motivated to succeed and to protect their own assets.”
Up on the simulated bridge, one of the trainers, U.S. Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Jon Gentile, played the role of the ship’s master. Having deployed three times to the North Persian Gulf in the past few years, he said he’s seen improvement.
“It gives you a sense of a job well done or a sense like you did something,” he said.
“I like working with them,” added U.S. Coast Guard Machinery Technician 2nd Class Kenneth Christian. “They like to make it clear, before we even train, that they really like Americans and appreciate our help.”
Bertheau said the language barrier is one of the biggest challenges for LEDET 102 crew members and their students.
“We have a linguist on board, and it helps. But we’ve also learned as much Arabic as we could, because that goes a long way,” said Bertheau. “They’re much more willing to listen to you if you’re attempting to speak to them in their language.”
Through the use of actual weapons and realistic scenarios, five Iraqi platoons have already successfully completed the training. Bertheau believes the training will help them protect their waters and ensure commerce is conducted safely and legally.
“We’ve only been out here for three months, but we’ve definitely seen drastic improvement in their abilities,” said Bertheau. “And they’re extremely gracious for the support that the Coast Guard, the Navy and the United States in general is giving their country. Every platoon tells us they feel a lot of pride in being able to protect their own country. It’s a big thing for them.”
In the past few months, Coast Guard detachments have led the way in training coalition forces throughout the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, from Djibouti to Yemen. Their VBSS and maritime law enforcement expertise are invaluable assets to the U.S. Navy and coalition forces’ maritime security operations.
These operations help set the conditions for security and stability in the North Persian Gulf and protect Iraq’s sea-based infrastructure to help provide the Iraqi people the opportunity for self-determination
By Journalist 2nd Class Cassandra Thompson, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs