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MARSOC conducts Maritime Operations Training

US Marine Corps News

By Staff Sgt. Robert Storm | 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion | July 11, 2013

NAVAL BASE CORONADO, Calif. -- Marines with the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion (1st MSOB), U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command (MARSOC) demonstrated this recently by conducting a maritime interdiction exercise and Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) training off the shore of Coronado, Calif. from May 20th to the 24th.

“We can use this skill set all over the world. It’ll help us build our capability for future maritime operations and build our ability to work with other SOF (Special Operation Force) groups,” said a 1st MSOB Master Sgt.

VBSS is the term used by the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command and other agencies for maritime interdiction, designed to capture enemy vessels. It is also used to combat terrorism, piracy and smuggling, and to conduct customs, safety and other inspections. VBSS teams provide crises response and anti-terrorism capabilities by boarding suspicious ships that may be trafficking drugs or harboring terrorists.

There are different levels of training, Level I focuses on ships that comply with the instructions of the inspection team. Level II, which addresses the tactics used to board vessels that are non-compliant. Level II ships also have a freeboard (the distance between the waterline and the main deck of the ship) that is low. Level III and IV which involve non-compliant vessels that have a high freeboard, or that are actively opposing the boarding, are handled by Special Operations Forces (SOF).

“It is very important for 1st MSOB to get back to our maritime roots as we begin our regionalization in the Pacific. We have lost a lot of experience in these skill sets over the past six years due to our large (footprint) in Afghanistan, but we are quickly reestablishing our foundational skill sets in maritime operations which will enable our force to meet the needs of the combatant and special operations commanders. Maritime Interception Operations (MIO) is going to be one of core tasks and conducting realistic and difficult training is the only way we will become proficient in the complex skill set,” said a 1st MSOB Officer.

During the evolution, the training involved tactical movement and shooting, defensive tactics, rappelling, searching, and other team coordinated exercises. MARSOC operators also trained to fast rope aboard vessels from helicopters as well as insert from a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB). The exercise climaxed with day and night runs. One of the main focuses of the training is how to safely board and search cargo vessels with proper climbing and rappelling techniques.

“We train to the highest level,” said the 1st MSOB Master Sgt. “That means we can take down a non-compliant, opposed ship, underway at night with either helicopter insertion or with RHIB’s.”

Formal VBSS training was created following the Gulf War in 1990 as a way to standardize and continue the Maritime Interception Operations as a result of UN resolutions. Conducting interaction patrols and using VBSS to search vessels, conduct inspections and disrupt drug and arms trafficking are elements of maritime operations and allow commercial shipping to occur safely in a region.

“MARSOC teams are adaptable, scalable forces that thrive in harsh and confusing environments. We develop our personnel so they have the experience to meet future needs as we regionally align MARSOC,” said the 1st MSOB Officer. “Our training allows us to provide SOF support to maritime and amphibious operations.”

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