USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) assumed a major role in Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the Northern Persian Gulf April 3, by joining Combined Task Force (CTF) 58.
The ship and its crew of 360 personnel joined other U.S. and coalition forces in the Persian Gulf as part of the continuing effort to provide security and stability in the region.
As part of MSO, these forces have a longstanding tradition of helping mariners in distress, providing medical assistance, engineering assistance, and search and rescue.
A major component of MSO includes visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams from U.S. ships like Lake Champlain and other coalition naval forces in the region. These specially trained VBSS teams board vessels ranging from wooden fishing dhows to supertankers in order to search for illegal materials.
"VBSS teams, like those on board Lake Champlain, aid MSO by helping to pressurize the maritime environment in which they are operating," said Capt. Donald P. Roane, Lake Champlain's commanding officer.
In addition to MSO, CTF 58 also plays a key role in protecting both the Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT) and the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT). These oil terminals serve as a significant source of revenue for the Iraqi people and their operation helps contribute to the reconstruction of the Iraqi economy.
U.S. and coalition military forces continue to assist the interim Iraq government in the security and protection of these terminals.
"Through compliant and non-compliant boardings as well as approach operations, VBSS works to detect, deter, and deny international terrorist organizations the use of the maritime environment as a means of attack or transportation of weapons, personnel, or other materials," said Roane.
VBSS teams are comprised of highly qualified officers and enlisted volunteers. In addition to shipboard training, each prospective teammember must complete a two-month training course in San Diego where they're taught the basics of VBSS.
"Instruction is the same for both officer and enlisted, however, officers are required to attend additional supervisory and administrative training," he said.
When not conducting VBSS boardings or operations, Lake Champlain personnel are constantly training in the form of classroom lectures, demonstrations and drills in order to improve their skills.
"The curriculum includes basic and advanced security forces training, non-compliant boarding procedures, tactical and close-quarter shooting, as well as defensive tactics," said Electrician's Mate 1st Class Patrick Ernst.
Lake Champlain is a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser and is currently deployed as part of a routine rotation of U.S. maritime forces in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, as well as conducting MSO in the region.
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