USS PAUL HAMILTON, At Sea (NNS) -- While operating off the coast of Southern California Sept. 27, USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) conducted the ship's seventh visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team exercise.
Paul Hamilton is currently operating as part of USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Carrier Strike Group (JCSSG) during the ship's composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX), which will prepare the strike group to deploy in early 2007.
The VBSS team plays a vital role in this particular exercise in COMPTUEX.
Once the ship's snoopy team identifies a suspect vessel, a ship-wide announcement is made to inform one of the three VBSS teams to prepare for a boarding.
The teams prepare in three phases for their subsequent mission.
"[Once aboard] the boarding officer's main objective is to get a hold of the ship's master and to retrieve all the intelligence, to see where the ship has been and what the ship has been doing," said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Roger Smith, one of Paul Hamilton's VBSS team members.
"The heart of the intelligence gathering takes place on the suspect vessel where VBSS members interview crewmembers, conduct biometrics, make copies of pertinent paperwork, inspect cargo, coordinate with [Paul Hamilton] to collect the electronic intelligence," said Ens. Aaron Dausman, the VBSS boarding officer.
The intelligence effort for each mission starts long before the team is dispatched. Once the intelligence is processed, it is passed on to the strike group for further dissemination.
According to Smith, after the initial boarding the team will then split, the boarding officer will go to the bridge and the rest of the team, known as the sweep team, will set security, and sweep the ship for personnel, contraband and intelligence.
Each team member is required to attend a three-week course on close combat tactics, said Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Kyle Eisenhauer.
"Each class is taught by knowledgeable former Marines and former Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, Land)," said Eisenhauer.
"I'm hoping that we'll have the opportunity to execute the VBSS mission and directly contribute to the war on terror," said Dausman. "Hopefully, at the very least we can contribute to the security of the region we're deployed in."
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