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USS Mason Patrols Persian Gulf

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050104-07
Release Date: 1/4/2005 11:10:00 PM

By Journalist Seaman Joseph Ebalo, Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

ABOARD USS MASON, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors from USS Mason (DDG 87) began the new year patrolling the Persian Gulf Jan. 2 after a five-day port visit to Bahrain.

The guided-missile destroyer is on its first deployment to the Gulf with the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Carrier Strike Group to support coalition efforts in the global war on terrorism.

In addition to surface patrols, the warship also has SH-60B Seahawk helicopters aboard to conduct aerial security patrols.

"Our mission is to deter any International Terrorist Organizations (ITO) or extremists posing a threat to critical maritime infrastructures in the region, such as the shipping and oil industries," said Mason Commanding Officer Cmdr. Gene Black. "To accomplish our goal, we conduct Maritime Interception Operations (MIO), and work with foreign sailors to promote stability and cooperation in the Arabian [Persian] Gulf."

Mason has teams of Sailors assigned to their visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team. The VBSS teams conduct MIO operations, maintain weapons and stand watch over the ship.

"Our VBSS Sailors are on watch 24 hours a day, and are always ready to respond to any surface or air contact under way," said Chief Gunner's Mate Jason Gurley, VBSS assistant leading chief petty officer.

Currently, VBSS operations are conducted on shipping vessels, fishing dhows and privately owned boats.

"We first try to signal the vessel and then try to communicate with them through the radio," said Gurley. "After initiating contact, we approach the vessel, look at their papers and talk to the crew. We search for smuggled goods or weapons, and give them goods, water and information on how to contact us in case of an emergency.

"Our primary goal is to emphasize that we are here to help," he added.

The teams also gather information about the mariners' observations and inquire about any terrorist activity in the region.

"Our presence has made an impact on the ITOs of the area, because we haven't run into any kind of terrorist activity," said Black. "So far, we have been able to deter any threats just by being here."

Mason has finished almost half of its deployment to the Middle East, and upon completion is scheduled to return to its home port in Norfolk, Va.

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