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Harpers Ferry, U.S. Frigates Conduct Joint VBSS Training

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070603-11
Release Date: 6/3/2007 11:24:00 AM

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark R. Alvarez, USS Harpers Ferry Public Affairs

USS HARPERS FERRY, At Sea (NNS) -- Visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team members from USS Jarrett (FFG 33) and USS Ford (FFG 54) practiced a joint compliance boarding exercise aboard USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) on May 29.

The joint exercise was designed to enhance the interoperability between Ford and Jarrett VBSS Sailors to simulate the teamwork necessary for boarding a large ship.

The training acts as an important step in working together for Harpers Ferry and other ships of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) task group, which will collaborate to train with a number of nations in Southeast Asia, primarily in VBSS.

During the training, Harpers Ferry acted as the suspicious vessel that was willing to be boarded for further investigation by these two teams of Sailors. The VBSS teams boarded Harpers Ferry -- by way of rigid-hull inflatable boats -- while all three ships were underway making for an additional challenge to the exercise.

Once the teams were aboard, they split up into two parties. One team moved to secure the bridge of Harpers Ferry and the other went down into the engineering spaces and the cargo holding area.

Ford’s VBSS team explored the hot and complicated main and auxiliary engineering spaces while Jarrett’s team negotiated their way out in the heat, sun and humidity of the topside spaces to the bridge. Both teams practiced entering and exiting spaces with maximum efficiency, safety and security, according to training observers.

Embarked aboard Harpers Ferry were members from Coast Guard, Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST), Honolulu who observed this exercise to provide further training and feedback.

“In the Coast Guard we have some different ways to approach boarding,” said MSST team leader, Coast Guard Lt. Gino Sciortino. “There is no single right way to conduct a boarding, there are many different ways, and if we can get these Sailors to come away with a few new tools to add to their bag, then our job is done.”

VBSS teams train constantly for various scenarios, but it is unusual for a team to train underway outside of their own vessel. Through this exercise, Ford and Jarrett Sailors were able to hone their boarding skills in an alien environment.

“It’s good to get our hands on some real world training,” said Ford VBSS team leader Lt. j.g. Jessica McClay. “It was definitely a challenge, and I think it was good that we learned firsthand how difficult it could be to navigate through a vessel that is foreign to us.”

Harpers Ferry played a supporting role in this scenario.

“Here on Harpers Ferry training is a way of life for us,” said Harpers Ferry Commanding Officer Cmdr. David L. Bossert. “We train how we fight and hosting this exercise gave us a chance to provide that element of realism these other ships may not get running through their own spaces.”

Both VBSS teams said they picked up a number of key tips to add to their arsenals of boarding skills, which they will further enhance throughout the deployment.

Harpers Ferry, Ford and Jarrett are currently participating in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2007. CARAT is an annual series of bilateral maritime training exercises between the United States and six Southeast Asia nations designed to build relationships and enhance the operational readiness of the participating forces. Harpers Ferry is the flagship for CARAT 2007 with Destroyer Squadron 1 commander embarked.

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