Singapore Strait A combined boarding at sea united the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams of USS Crommelin (FFG 37) and the Republic of Singapore navy
(RSN) patrol craft RSS Sea Lion (P 77) during the Singapore phase of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) June 6.
A combined 10-ship USN/RSN CARAT task group, in addition to air assets, is operating together in the South China Sea during the first leg of the annual series of bilateral maritime training exercises between the United States and six Southeast Asia nations.
“Training together helps us enhance maritime security in the Singapore Strait,” said Sea Lion’s boarding officer Capt. Lee, who only uses his family name.
Lee and three other members of his boarding team, and Crommelin’s four-man team, traveled by Crommelin’s rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) to USS Tortuga (LSD 46).
As part of the scenario, Tortuga played the role of a critical contact of interest (CCOI). With Crommelin off Tortuga’s port side while Sea Lion operated to starboard, the boarding team’s RHIB pulled alongside and climbed up the "CCOI" by a Jacob’s ladder. Moving together, the team covered each other with fake weapons as they methodically moved from the boat deck to the bridge.
“The Singapore team did well. Their movements were good, and they had a lot of patience as they moved around the ship,” said Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Ryan Wystub, Crommelin’s boarding officer, following the evolution.
Sharing tactics and techniques at the end of the event, Wystub told the Singapore team they made the right decision to go to straight to the bridge to question the ship’s captain.
“If the ship would’ve been non-compliant, we would have taken over the ship,” said Wystub, whose VBSS training includes weapons movement, rappelling into cargo containers and hand-to-hand fighting.
The Singaporean said they learned techniques from the Crommelin team by working together and watching. “Everybody covered each other, and the way they moved is like one body,” said RSN team member 1st Sgt. Louis Goh.
Crommelin returned the Singapore sailors to their own ship by RHIB before returning to the guided-missile frigate.
Tortuga and Crommelin are part of the five-ship CARAT task group under the leadership of Commander, Destroyer Squadron 1 Capt. Al Collins. The task group also includes guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70), Coast Guard high endurance cutter USCGC Sherman (WHEC 720) and the rescue and salvage ship USS Salvor (ARS 52).
In its 12th year, CARAT is designed to build relationships and enhance the operational readiness of the participating forces. Practicing maritime interdiction operations by boarding mock rogue ships at sea together is a major piece of the CARAT training syllabus.
CARAT Singapore, a two-week exercise, began May 29. Exercises with the navies of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand will follow over the next several months.
By Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Melinda Larson, Destroyer Squadron 1 Public Affairs