VBSS Teams From Africa, Europe, U.S. Train Together

Monday, June 12, 2006
Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) teams from Africa and Europe finished a week's worth of Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) training June 8 by conducting compliant boardings on USS Simpson (FFG 56) during Phoenix Express 2006. Two officers and two enlisted members of the Simpson VBSS team prepared formal training lessons and devised practical training plans to train Algerian, Moroccan and Spanish VBSS teams during the tactical phase of Phoenix Express 2006. “We’re the perfect ship to provide this training because this is what we’ve been doing for the past five months,” said Cmdr. John Uhl, commanding officer of Simpson. Simpson joined USS Saipan (LHA 2) in Rota, Spain, in late May after completing a five-month deployment with Standing NATO Maritime Group (SNMG) 1, where they worked with ships from Canada, Germany, Poland and Portugal. Simpson’s VBSS team used training skills acquired during Security Reaction Force (SRF) Basic and SRF Advanced training, VBSS team training, and five months of intensive NATO training experience to conduct VBSS training during Phoenix Express 2006. Training included small arms use, proper space entry procedures, team communication skills, ship familiarization, tactical team movements and boarding reporting procedures.

Boarding teams from Algeria, Morocco and Spain embarked Saipan in Rota, Spain, May 31 to begin a comprehensive MIO training program. According to Lt.jg. Brennan Kemper, Simpson VBSS primary boarding officer, the training was successful. “The VBSS teams improved their skills and gained confidence during the training. By the time we executed the compliant boarding on Simpson, they were really moving as a team, they understood their objective and properly employed security tactics,” Kemper said. “It was a very good opportunity for us. We all trained together and learned together,” said Lt.jg. Alvaro Herraiz, Spanish ship SPS Infanta Elena Operations Officer.

Phoenix Express is a U.S. 6th Fleet two-phased exercise conducted by Commander, Amphibious Squadron (COMPHIBRON) 8 focusing on operational and tactical objectives to improve Maritime Domain Awareness. COMPHIBRON 8 is embarked aboard Saipan and operating with Infanta Elena, Algerian corvette El Kirch, Moroccan frigate Mohammed V and Simpson in the Mediterranean Sea. Arabic, French and Spanish resonated through the passageways and spaces aboard Saipan during the nine days of underway training. The combined multi-national exercise enabled VBSS participants to practice English speaking skills and become familiar with the daily routine aboard a U.S. warship. Language barriers were frequently overcome by use of visual communication and the use of volunteer interpreters. “We were fortunate to have a Saipan Sailor, Airman Fahmi Kaddour, volunteer to serve as a translator throughout our training. He was a tremendous asset,” said Ensign Kevin McClellan, Simpson VBSS boarding officer. Saipan and Simpson pulled into Rota, Spain, June 9. Sailors and Marines from the Algerian, Moroccan, Spanish, and U.S. VBSS teams now have the opportunity to continue strengthening relationships ashore as Phoenix Express 2006 winds down with closing events.

By Lt. Enid Wilson, Commander, Amphibious Squadron 8 Public Affairs Source: NavNews

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