ABOARD USS HOWARD OFF THE COAST OF BRUNEI (NNS) -- The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83) trained with the navies of Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Republic of the Philippines Aug. 17-20 during the Southeast Asia Cooperation Against Terrorism (SEACAT) exercise.
The seventh-annual exercise focused on improving the interoperability between regional navies and their ability to collectively intercept vessels using the seas to transport criminals, contraband or terrorists.
During the first day of the exercise, while Howard acted as an opposing force vessel, a commando team from the Brunei Special Forces boarded her. The Royal Navy of Brunei and the Royal Brunei Air Force tracked Howard and assisted the team in the maritime intercept. U.S. Sailors from Heloborne Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (HVBSS) Team 1, embarked aboard Howard, acted as crew members assigned to the rogue vessel.
"The training was a big success," said Lt. Nathaniel Shick, Howard's weapons officer. "The Brunei forces were very professional."
Capt. Rasman, boarding officer for the Brunei special operations unit, agreed that the training was particularly effective. "It was a good platform for future operations. If we do this again, we'd love to come to Howard."
On the second day of the exercise, Howard boarding teams conducted small boat operations in rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs), while coordinating with a P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft from the Republic of Singapore Navy.
During their time operating with partner navies, U.S. Sailors were impressed by the skill of their counterparts.
"They performed professionally and efficiently," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Benjamin Ericson, a member of HVBSS Team 1 who played the role of ship's master aboard Howard for the exercise.
As the boarding team of Bruneian commandos prepared to depart the ship, Howard executive officer Lt. Cmdr. Charles Grassi thanked his ship's guests.
"On behalf of the Captain and crew of USS Howard, it was a pleasure to have you on board, and we look forward to operating with you again," Grassi said.
SEACAT presents its multinational participants with realistic situations involving criminal and terrorist threats requiring international coordination, communication and decision making. U.S. ships involved in the exercise include Howard, USS Tortuga (LSD 46), USS Ford (FFG 54), USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC 722) and U.S. Military Sealift Command ships USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50), USNS 1st Lt. Baldomero Lopez (T-AK 3010) and MV Cpl. Louis J. Hauge, Jr. (T-AK 3000). In addition, a U.S. P-3C from VP-16 is participating in the exercise.
Howard is a member of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, currently in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility as part of a routine deployment to promote peace, cooperation and stability in the region.
For more news from Commander Task Force 73, visit www.navy.mil/local/clwp/.