USS SAN JACINTO, At Sea (NNS) -- During the first five months of her deployment, the Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56) has interdicted several skiffs, captured pirates and played a key role in keeping sea lanes safe.
USS San Jacinto left Norfolk on a seven-month deployment to the Gulf of Aden January 21, in support of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151's counter-piracy mission.
Typically, Aegis cruisers are utilized as a primary air defense platform to support amphibious or expeditionary readiness groups. Due to the diversity of the current battlespace, however, USS San Jacinto's primary duties have changed to support CTF 151.
"Recently Aegis cruisers have been tasked with visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) and anti-piracy operations," stated Fire Controlman 1st Class Christopher Ladera, a member of USS San Jacinto's VBSS team. "With the changing threat in the world, I think we play an important role in helping suppress piracy."
USS San Jacinto, at less than 600 feet long, is considered a comparatively small and maneuverable warship. Armed with offensive and defensive weapons systems, multi-function radars, two rigid-hull inflatable boats and two SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopters, not to mention a highly-trained VBSS team, it can respond quickly to changes in counter-piracy conditions.
"San Jacinto is a multi-mission ship," said Commanding Officer Capt. John Cordle. "As an independent deployer, we are capable of plugging into any strike group or task force. This requires a great deal of flexibility and a good grounding in the basics."
USS San Jacinto's VBSS team gained the confidence to conduct the counter-piracy mission with an extensive training program which included schools, training exercises and weapons qualifications.
"Preparing for deployment was a deployment in itself," Ladera recalled. "Once the VBSS schools were completed, it was very important for us as a team to become familiar with communications, tactical movements, and physical fitness."
The intense training was crucial to USS San Jacinto's success in their new role countering piracy, said VBSS team boarding officer Lt. j.g. Sam Williard.
"We keep our focus on the basics and get the little things right, and the big things fall right into place."
On May 31, USS San Jacinto disrupted nine suspected Somali pirates from attacking a Maltese-flagged motor vessel. Earlier in the month, the ship had rescued five Yemeni mariners from 13 suspected Somali pirates, while conducting routine counter narcotics operations 68 miles southeast of Ras Fartak, Yemen.
Despite the ship's record of success in countering piracy and the approaching end of the ship's deployment cycle, the crew remains at the ready for the next attack.
"We knew before we deployed that we would largely be focused on the mission of counter-piracy, but it's impossible to accurately predict what the level of piracy activity will be or when and where an attack will take place," Williard noted.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.