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Tortuga's VBSS Team Achieves Certification

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS061204-18
Release Date: 12/4/2006 5:36:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David J. Ham, USS Tortuga Public Affairs

SASEBO, Japan (NNS) -- More than a year after USS Tortuga’s (LSD 46) Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) team initiated its in-depth training cycle, members from Afloat Training Group (ATG) Western Pacific certified the team Nov. 14.

Tortuga’s VBSS team officially can make both compliant and non-compliant boardings.

ATG assessors were highly impressed with the team’s ability. A Landing Craft Utility (LCU) from Assault Craft Unit 1 simulated the non-compliant merchant vessel. ATG evaluators simulated non-compliant merchant masters.

Assessors all agreed that the team displayed fluidity and professionalism, maneuvering through the different spaces of the LCU to eventually find “the bad guy” and secure their certification.

“We had to display our ability to board a non-compliant merchant vessel from start to finish,” explained Ensign Alan Presley, certified boarding officer. “Cooperation was a must. Flawless tactics were pivotal. Months of training were absolutely necessary.”

With certification, Tortuga now may be called upon to board merchant vessels to maintain maritime security.

“I’m certain without a doubt that we can execute in real-world situations,” said Presley.

Tortuga’s VBSS team did its boarding in half the time as most ships and met more than the minimum objectives to pass the certification.

To reach this milestone of VBSS readiness, the ship’s VBSS team went through an intensive training process, beginning with the Ship’s Reaction Force Basic (SRF-B) course, taught by Chief Gunner’s Mate (SW) David A. Schwartz. Members were trained in weapons handling and tactical movements in basic combat scenarios. Members were also initiated with a splash of pepper spray.

Members graduating from SRF-B flew into Yokosuka, Japan, to spend several weeks at the Ship’s Reaction Force Advanced (SRF-A) course. VBSS instructors outfitted the members with search and seizure gear and confronted them with the external threats that they could possibly face during a boarding.

Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Harry Hladun III said that the intensity of the course was grueling because the instructors really knew how to get inside the heads of each and every student.

“It was their way of making you think on your toes, as well as thinking like the teammates around you,” said Hladun. ”Everything was fast paced. The instructors are constantly on your back, not giving you time to think. If you think, you’re dead.”

SRF-A grads were enrolled in yet another training school in San Diego to spend three weeks at the VBSS team trainer.

But training did not stop there.

While Tortuga received a facelift during the scheduled fall selective restricted availability period, the VBSS team took part in daily two-hour training sessions aboard the nearby berthing barge.

“On an average of two hours a day, we would get everyone up to par practicing room entries and clearing, and honing in on the skills we were taught in SRF courses,” said Hladun.

With that training, Tortuga’s VBSS is ready to execute in real-world situations.

Tortuga is a dock landing ship serving under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious force,. ESG 7/Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.



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