GULF OF ADEN (NNS) -- Whether searching the Arabian Gulf for hidden weapons, or providing assistance to a stranded dhow, the visit, board, search and seizure team from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) are playing an important part in the Navy's 21st century maritime strategy.
The VBSS team's mission focuses on ensuring security and stability in the maritime environment -- a core mission in the region.
"The VBSS team is designed to control and try to prevent piracy and smuggling across the seas," said Chief Quartermaster Alex Feldhaus, Arlington's VBSS team leader. "We are trained to look for a vast number of things that are illegally smuggled between countries that range from trafficking persons, drugs or weapons."
Arlington VBSS team members are required to attend numerous courses and training in order to qualify as a member.
"In addition to the security reaction force basic and advanced classes, members of the VBSS also attend the Non-Compliant course, said Feldhaus.
"There we learn everything that could possibly be employed during a mission from close-quarters combat, the hook and pole boarding technique, to setting up a rig system so that we can repel from the top of a stack of containers and inspect all contents and all containers. Another aspect we learn is the very fluid and ever changing dynamic of an unknown vessel. Every ship that is boarded has its own unique challenges that we all must be on the alert for and be ready for. We also learn to use gear for drug testing, taking bio-metrics for identity checks and classification, engineering gear to ensure the ship is safe and even evidence collection."
During Arlington's time operating in the 5th Fleet area of operations, the VBSS team has maintained and improved upon the training received before deployment during the ship's composite training unit exercise.
"Throughout the deployment the team has trained weekly to stay proficient with all the gear," said Feldhaus. "We must train continuously to ensure that all team members can flow together, read each other and be able to predict what each one of us is thinking. This is critical to ensure that a boarding is a success and that the entire team is a cohesive unit."
The weekly VBSS team training enables the team to carry out boarding operations aimed at building stronger ties with local mariners and informing them that the VBSS teams are there to help.
"Since the teams are often a local ship's first contact with U.S. Navy Sailors, the team members must conduct themselves with strict military bearing," said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Joshua Toohey, one of Arington's VBSS team members. "We are here to promote security and stability to support regional prosperity, and we make sure our conduct reflects that."
By conducting these training exercises at sea, Arlington looks to gain valuable experience while focusing on the importance of maritime security operations.
Arlington is part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and, with embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
For more news from USS Arlington (LPD 24), visit www.navy.mil/local/lpd24/