VBSS Teams Train to Board Vessels of Interest on High Seas

Story Number: NNS090704-13Release Date: 7/4/2009 10:47:00 AM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Coleman Thompson, USS Harry S. Truman Public Affairs

USS Harry S. Truman, (NNS) -- In addition to protecting and accompanying USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), the other ships in Truman Strike Group have the duty of inspecting suspicious vessels with highly trained Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) teams.

The purpose of a VBSS team is to conduct inspections on vessels of interest and to combat terrorism and piracy. During the Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), the teams worked with several Navy ships in the area conducting boarding operations, detaining and processing prisoners, and taking control of ships that posed a threat.

"These training operations are key," said Ensign Shawn Toth, the boarding officer for the VBSS team on board guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64). "The more training we can get the better. We've already had a few dry runs. We ran across some problems along the way, but we addressed them and are better prepared for the real thing."

The VBSS exercises offered the Sailors involved a chance to practice something that is not usually prevalent on larger decks.

"I think it's unique," said Engineman 2nd Class (SW) Chad Zandi, a member of Carney's VBSS team. "You don't really get to do things like this in most parts of the fleet."

Repeated training is essential to maintaining mission readiness for the group, and the team must be ready for any situation since the need and opportunity to board another vessel may present itself at any time.
Once a vessel of interest comes into range of the strike group, queries are made to various agencies about the vessel's purpose and cargo. If anything is suspicious, the team will launch a small craft and move to board the ship. From there, the team will gather more information on the crew and inspect the ship's cargo. If any crew member's information comes in as a threat or the cargo is found to be contraband, the team will assess the situation and move forward accordingly.

With the recent rash of pirate attacks, it's more important than ever that these teams remain ready in the event that they encounter a pirate threat. They train to be ready for any possible situation by mastering weapons and non-lethal tactics in order to easily subdue hostile threats.

"We've done a lot of good training out here," said Toth. "We did a few dry runs, all involving different players and scenarios. It's always different when you're against somebody that's unpredictable, and the guys out here posing as the opposition have been doing just that."

The team trained with former Navy SEALs who worked as evaluators and simulated crew members on the ships participating in the exercise.

"I've been getting a lot of great mentorship out here," said Zandi. "I'm learning new things each day from the people above and below me."

The teams will continue to train after COMPTUEX in preparation for the strike group's upcoming deployment.

For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.

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