USS O’KANE, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors from the USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSSG) conducted approach operation exercises Feb. 7 off the coast of Guam as part of greater integrated strike group exercises.
USS O'Kane (DDG 77), USS Preble (DDG 88) and USS Antietam (CG 54) practiced approach operations with each other in preparation for the ships' arrival in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR).
"Today's exercise is what we may be tasked to conduct in the 5th Fleet AOR," said O'Kane executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Erik J. Eslich. "Basically, it's about visiting local mariners and collecting information."
Rigid-hull inflatable boats from each of the three ships took turns making approaches on Preble.
"When we do approach ops, our intentions are not to board other vessels," said Chief Quartermaster (SW) Bryan Cain. "We just pull up on the side and ask them how they are doing, then we ask the basic questions we need to know. If we get invited on board, the boarding officer will have a translator with him and go aboard non-aggressively."
Lt. j.g. Christopher Beck, O'Kane's primary boarding officer, is training the ship's new boarding officer and team, ensuring they are geared up and ready to go for possible operations in 5th Fleet.
"We make sure that civilian mariners who regularly operate in the Persian Gulf understand why we're here," said Beck. "It's important they understand coalition forces are operating in the area to make it a safer place and a more conducive environment for them to live their lives."
The training for each of the boarding team members is very important to Eslich.
"It is a perishable skill set," said Eslich. "A lot of our teams are very young and don't get a whole lot of opportunities to conduct these type of operations at sea."
With the two other ships participating in the exercise, Eslich said it is a good opportunity for the O'Kane boarding team to go out and practice these operations at sea.
"This training is important because it helps us keep up to date and proficient," said Gunner's Mate 3rd Class David Carroll, a boarding team member.
The exercise was also a chance for the three ships to practice visit, board, search and seizure operations (VBSS) before they transit to the 5th Fleet.
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