USS THACH, At Sea (NNS) -- The guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) is providing a vital security presence in the North Arabian Gulf, helping to protect Iraq's critical infrastructure since arriving on station mid-July.
Thach is assigned to Commander, Task Group Iraqi Maritime (CTG-IM) as a picket ship to provide security for the Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT).
"Some of the unique capabilities that Thach provides is a flight deck and two helicopters, which we can use for logistics, surveillance and for response to contingencies," said Capt. Pete Driscoll, commander of CTG-IM.
ABOT is an Iraqi oil platform that accounts for a significant percentage of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
"We're providing security here to help make sure that oil is able to flow freely from the platform to help Iraq's economy to continue to improve and flourish," said Thach's commanding officer, Cmdr. David Haas. "If that stops, up to eighty percent of their GDP could go away, and we can not allow that to happen."
Task Group Iraqi Maritime operates in the Northern Arabian Gulf and is primarily responsible for defending critical Iraqi infrastructure located in the area, as well as protecting the sovereignty of Iraqi waters.
"We have sufficient capabilities out here to do the mission, but the Thach certainly enhances what we can do in several areas," said Driscoll. "It provides us with flexibility, and it provides us a visible deterrent as well."
Thach and the task group are also training Iraqi forces in the area on maritime security operations.
"The big mission here is to defend and deter against attack but also to transition control of the defense of ABOT back to Iraqi control," said Haas. "We do that by training their navy and marine corps on point defense and picket defense."
Thach's inherent visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) capabilities are key to the ship's ability to support the task force and help defend ABOT.
"We conduct security sweeps of vessels going into ABOT," said Lt.j.g. Julio Alarcon, a member of Thach's VBSS teams. "We check for any contraband, weapons and explosives that might be on board."
Thach's presence and the increased maritime security it provides, helps increase knowledge of the pattern of life and the maritime picture in the Northern Arabian Gulf.
"Our VBSS teams will do interaction patrols with local fishermen, developing good will and rapport with the locals," said Haas. "We ask them about conditions at sea for them and their difficulties, any criminal activity, piracy or any other nations that are harassing them."
Thach is part of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, which is on a routine deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility. Operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet are focused on reassuring regional partners of the United States' commitment to regional security, which promotes global economic stability and local prosperity.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.