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Iwo Jima ESG Sailors Graduate From VBSS Training

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS060324-07

By Lt. Karen E. Eifert, USS Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group Public Affairs

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (NNS) -- Twenty Sailors from the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Expeditionary Strike Group (ISG) completed a three-week visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) course at the Center for Anti-Terrorism and Navy Security Forces (CENATNSF), located at the Naval Support Activity Northwest Annex here, March 17.

The VBSS course trained Sailors from USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41), USS Cole (DDG 67) and USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) to combat global issues such as piracy, human trafficking and drug trafficking, while instilling in them a requisite anti-terrorism warfare mindset.

“The training down at CENATNSF was intense and realistic, and we know it will pay huge dividends during our upcoming deployment. We are greatly reassured by the professional training we have received to date,” said Whidbey Island Commanding Officer Cmdr. Eric M. Ross, who has remained involved with the progress of Whidbey Island’s VBSS team since it formed.

The rigorous mind-and-body course the ISG Sailors completed included a classified focus on theater-specific rules of engagement and appropriate detainee handling measures. It also focused on producing physically fit and tactically enabled Sailors who are fully prepared to augment the Navy’s security force currently serving on the seas in support of the global war on terrorism.

“We improve upon this course with information fed to us from Navy ships once they’ve completed their missions,” said the head instructor, a chief petty officer assigned to CENATNSF. He explained that the scenarios the training facility conducts are never exactly the same, since instructors tailor their actions in direct response to the way students respond to them during scenarios.

The school, which began instructing 13 months ago and has graduated less than 30 classes, is already credited with training the VBSS teams on board two of the most high-profile Navy vessels associated with piracy today. CENATNSF instructors trained USS Winston Churchill’s (DDG 81) VBSS team, which captured pirates while operating in the Indian Ocean in January. These instructors also trained the VBSS teams on board USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and USS Gonzalez (DDG 61), which were fired upon by pirates March 18 while operating off the coast of Somalia.

“We give students a baseline of instruction from which to be successful,” said the chief. “While we would like to count any successful boarding by former students as our own, the real credit goes to their ship because it’s the consistent drilling that ultimately makes them successful.”

He said that the Sailors from the Iwo Jima Strike Group adapted well to the expectations of a challenging course. “Somewhere down the line of their deployment we’ll expect to hear to hear great things about the Iwo Jima strike group too,” he said.

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