Third Fleet leads naval forces in the Eastern Pacific from the West Coast of North America to the international date line and is responsible for providing realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy.

U.S. and Australian Ships Conduct Anti-Piracy Exercise During RIMPAC 2012

By: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raul Moreno Jr.

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 25, 2012) – U.S. and Australian ships demonstrated visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) procedures to strengthen the crews’ abilities to conduct maritime security operations, July 25, as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012.

The exercise between the guided-missile cruiser USS Chosin (CG 65) and the Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Perth (FFH 157), part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 176, was a joint VBSS demonstration that allowed Sailors from both ships to share techniques and experience regarding the boarding of vessels.

VBSS teams are responsible for boarding vessels suspected of conducting piracy operations that may include illegal activity like trafficking of humans or smuggling illicit drugs.

“The U.S. exercises international law to intercept, query and board a vessel to verify what they say they have on board, is actually what they have on board,” said Ensign Steven McClendon, Chosin’s force protection officer.

Perth played the role of a fictional ship suspected of illegal activity while Chosin took the role of deploying a VBSS team to verify that the ship was not involved in illegal activity.

Chosin began by querying the suspect ship, which was initially uncooperative.

“We then exercised simulating warning shots,” said McClendon, “they became compliant and let us board.”

The VBSS team aboard Chosin geared up with simulated weapons and prepared to conduct a boarding at sea.

“We disembarked with the RHIB (rigid-hull inflatable boat) and traveled to the other ship,” said Logistics Specialist Seaman Leland Foltz, assigned to Chosin’s supply department.

“My normal role is to be a ‘breacher,'” said Foltz, “so I normally have a kit on my back and I carry the shotgun. Whenever we run into a locked door on a non-compliant ship, I break the lock and we break in the door.”

Once aboard Perth, the Australian and U.S. teams participating in the VBSS exercise conducted a safety brief. Chosin’s VBSS team of 12 split into three groups, each joined by safety trainers aboard Perth.

“So from there we went to verify their cargo, which was supposed to be carrots,” said Foltz, “We found automatic weapons, drugs, and a lot of simulated resistance from the crew–we didn’t find any carrots.”

After successfully conducting the exercise aboard Perth, U.S. and Australian sailors had a chance to connect and talk to each other.

“We got to talk to them before we got back into our RHIB. They were professional and really friendly,” said McClendon.

Chosin’s VBSS team practices boarding procedures inport, but has never had the opportunity to board a vessel while at sea.

“That was the first time our team has actually been able to do something like that,” said McClendon, “It was a real good experience to get into the RHIB and climb up another ship.”

“This was something new. It was fun and intense,” said Fultz.

CTF 176 is an expeditionary strike group (ESG) and consists of participants from Australia, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Tonga, New Zealand, and the U.S. throughout RIMPAC 2012, the task force will participate in a wide range of amphibious exercises, non-combatant evacuation operation exercises, helicopter and mechanized raids, and Marine live-fire support exercises.

RIMPAC 2012 is the world’s largest international maritime exercise, and is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971.

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