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'Unexpected Company' Arrives for Lincoln Strike Group's COMTUEX

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS071029-05
Release Date: 10/29/2007 3:55:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James R. Evans, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and Carrier Strike Group 9 will have a bit of "Unexpected Company" during their Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMTUEX).

Twenty four Sailors from Mobile Security Squadron 2 (MSRON2), Helicopter Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (HVBSS) Team 1, calling itself "Unexpected Company," are embarked to conduct training. The unit is assigned to Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va. It's the first team of its kind to reach operational status and is getting underway on the West Coast-based ships.

The team of highly trained personnel specializes in boarding non-compliant ships at sea, using the element of surprise afforded by helicopter insertion. Equipped with night vision and state-of-the-art biometrics, they are capable of boarding a vessel in the dead of night, detaining the crew if necessary, and identifying suspected terrorists or subjects of interest.

"Prior to us coming online, the only people who could do what we do were SEAL units," said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Kevin "M.O.D" Knorr.

Knorr said that having a dedicated asset to perform the VBSS mission is important because although many cruisers and destroyers have their own teams, most are not qualified to operate at night or from helicopters. Also, because they are made up of Sailors from all different ratings on the ship, performing a boarding could affect their "mother" ship's operations.

"When they stop to do a boarding, it takes away from the operations of the ship in whatever other mission they're supposed to be performing," Knorr said. "For us, this is the only job we do. It's not a collateral duty. We train for it every day."

Besides a long list of prerequisite training, including advanced security reaction force school, water survival, and non-compliant boarding school, the master-at-arms, gunner's mates, and boatswain's mates who make up the team are trained in various specialties depending on the role they will play during a mission, according to Knorr.

Team members qualified as boarding officers supervise the boarding, operate the ship's controls if necessary, and perform biometrics on suspects, gathering intelligence and checking fingerprints against a database of known or suspected terrorists.

Helicopter rope suspension masters are responsible for ensuring that each and every "roper" on the team makes it safely from the helicopter to the deck below or up caving ladders when the boarding is performed from a rigid hull inflatable boat.

The team also employs designated snipers who can provide support from the safety of a circling helicopter, and emergency medical technicians to treat injuries.

"The best part of this job is being on such a good team," said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Aaron "Rocky" Fitzgerald. "We're really close knit and we're all really happy to be here. It's a chance to be part of something new and to be the first ones to do this."

HVBSS-1 is part of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, which was formed in 2006. The team stood up Feb. 1, 2007. At least three teams are expected to be stationed on each coast of the U.S., deploying in support of carriers and their strike groups.

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