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Ashland Supports CTF 158 in North Persian Gulf

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080612-09
Release Date: 6/12/2008 12:31:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mandy Hunsucker, Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group Public Affairs

USS ASHLAND, At Sea (NNS) -- The amphibious dock landing ship, USS Ashland (LSD 48) recently completed operations as part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 158 in the North Persian Gulf (NPG).

CTF 158's mission is to maintain maritime security in and around the Al Basra Oil Terminal (ABOT) and the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT) in support of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1790, as well as help train Iraqi marines.

"These oil platforms, which produce about 90 percent of Iraq's annual revenue, are critical assets for the economy and future of Iraq," said Lt. John Erickson, Ashland's operations officer. "The coalition's commitment to the future of Iraq is evident by the security operations we conduct to ensure the safety and security of ABOT and KAAOT now and into the future."

While operating in the NPG, Ashland served as the CTF 158 Afloat Staging Base (AFSB).

"One of our main missions was to train Iraqi VBSS (visit, board, search and seizure) teams," said Machinery Repairman 2nd Class Victor Natiuidad, assigned to the Naval Training Team (NaTT), CTF 158. "Ashland serves as a platform to practice these type of operations and gives us the opportunity to greatly enhance training."

Part of this training consists of Iraqi VBSS teams performing security missions. Several times a week, teams depart Ashland via Iraqi fast aluminum boats (FAB) and proceed to large oil tankers and perform security sweeps of tankers that are waiting to come along side ABOT or KAAOT to receive oil.

Another mission Iraqi VBSS teams conduct includes visiting small dhows in the area. These interaction patrols, or IPATS, are an element of Maritime Security Operations (MSO) which help generate support and awareness amongst commercial vessels sailing in the region of the coalition's efforts to ensure a safe and secure maritime environment. Coalition forces also conduct MSO's under international maritime conventions to ensure security in international waters so that commercial shipping and fishing can occur safely in the region.

The ultimate goal is to turn all security responsibilities over to the Iraqi Navy and Marines for ABOT and KAAOT. Ashland's role in providing a temporary training platform is significant in helping accomplish this objective.

"This training is a success story in Iraq," said Royal Navy Lt. James Walton, officer in charge of the embarked NaTT team. "The Iraqi Navy is increasing their ability to provide security for the oil platforms 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."

Ashland's diverse capabilities make it an ideal platform for the AFSB mission. With its 440 foot well deck, the ship is able to easily dock the three embarked U.S. patrol boats and three Iraqi FAB's in the well, which protects the small boats from adverse weather conditions and allows them to remain in the water ready to perform assigned missions on short notice.

With the ability to land helicopters, Ashland is also able to fulfill AFSB responsibilities of a logistical hub, serving coalition forces operating in the NPG with passenger, mail and cargo routing and transfer to and from Bahrain.

At any given time, there are several coalition ships that help provide security around the oil platforms. Ashland's ability to serve as a logistical hub helps to keep the operation running smoothly.

"It is a very dynamic environment up here," said Cmdr. Jeffrey Ward, Ashland's commanding officer. "We are taking part in a very important mission and the crew is excited about doing our part towards enhancing training and security in the region."

Ashland is one of six vessels in the Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group currently deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Maritime Security Operations. MSO help develop security in the maritime environment, which promotes stability and global prosperity. These operations complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.

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