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VBSS Exercise with Russian Destroyer

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS030613-02

Release Date: 6/13/2003 8:13:00 AM

By Journalist 2nd Class Joseph R. Holstead, Commander, Carrier Group 8 Public Affairs

THE BALTIC SEA (NNS) -- On a sea of choppy waters, Chief Electronic Warfare (SW) Tim Kardasz of Akron, Ohio, was the assistant boating officer aboard a rigid-hull inflatable boat that took a team to board the Russian destroyer RFS Nastochivyy (DDG 610). What was once almost unthinkable, is now an exciting training evolution during Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2003.

Kardasz set out with the boat's crew as part of a Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) exercise from USS Vella Gulf (CG 72). "We conduct a lot of VBSS exercises, but this one was special," he said.

A VBSS can be compliant or non-compliant, signifying the stance of the boat being boarded. Seven members of Nastoychivyy's crew played the role of a compliant ship being boarded, with five of their sailors acting as crew members, another acting as captain of the boarded ship for search, and the seventh played the role of chief engineer.

"The boat ride over was a bit rough, but the Russians were very accommodating and assisted our guys getting on board when we arrived," said Kardasz. "We usually have a 12 man crew, but we had a 13th shipmate who is fluent in Russian with us who acted as translator for the exercise."

The 13th Sailor from Vella Gulf was Fire Controlman Seaman Suren Kavtarian, who moved to the United States from the Ukraine in 1990.

"We climbed on board and I translated the greetings and the ground rules of the exercise for both navies. The captain spoke some English, but the rest of the crew involved in the exercise did not. It was a strange feeling, because I was excited to be on board. But I maintained my bearing as a U.S. Navy Sailor - I knew I had to be professional," said Kavtarian, who first lived in Philadelphia, Penn., and now resides in Norfolk, Va.

After the boarding portion of the exercise was completed, Vella Gulf Sailors who were aboard Nastoychivyy chatted and talked about things Sailors typically talk about, according to Kavtarian, who was happy to translate everything.

Vella Gulf crew members gave the Russian sailors cookies, before Kavtarian translated the good-byes and the crew headed back to their ship to continue BALTOPS 2003 exercises. BALTOPS runs from June 5 - 23, 2003.

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