USS O'KANE, Pacific Ocean (NNS) -- USS O'Kane (DDG 77) practiced boarding and searching suspect vessels by conducting expanded maritime intercept operations (EMIO) as part of the ship's composite training exercise off the coast of Southern California, Sept. 23.
As defined in 2005 by the House Armed Services Committee, EMIO is a key maritime component needed to support the global war on terrorism by deterring, delaying and disrupting the movement of terrorists and terrorist-related materials and personnel at sea.
Cmdr. J.J. Duke, O'Kane's commanding officer, said the main objectives practiced during EMIO were exercising established command and control procedures and allowing the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams to experience seamanship intensive evolutions that included complex boarding and inspection techniques.
"These exercises are important, because they allow O'Kane to practice the proper communication procedures required in passing critical information between our VBSS teams, O'Kane and Destroyer Squadron 21," said Duke.
O'Kane conducted two exercises, one during the day and one at night. In both instances, the ship launched a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) to intercept the suspect vessel. This marked the fist time that O'Kane's teams were able to practice boarding and collecting intelligence aboard a civilian vessel. Past training evolutions were conducted on other Navy ships with an Afloat Training Group.
According to Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Electric) Matthew Danforth, being able to interdict a non-Navy vessel greatly enhanced the legitimacy of the exercise.
The exercise began with O'Kane establishing communications with the suspect vessel over a bridge-to-bridge radio. Afterward, O'Kane's VBSS team boarded and established security. Then it began a methodical search of the ship, photographing all documents and personnel in an effort to gather as much intelligence as possible.
"Practice makes perfect," said Danforth, a Pittsburgh, Penn., native. "When you are searching another vessel, there are so many scenarios that could happen. It is important that we are able to 'flex' to anything that could go down. With these exercises, our teams work better together and become more fluid. We are working out the bugs now, so when we get over there, things will run smoothly, and we will be confident with the skill sets needed to complete the mission."
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