USA: Arleigh Burke-Class Destroyer VBSS Team Trains with Coast Guard Unit


A U.S. Coast Guard Advanced Interdiction Team (AIT) participated in training exercises with the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team aboard guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87), May 30.

The Coast Guard unit, embarked aboard Mason since May, regularly takes part in the ship’s VBSS training, including hand-to-hand combat, tactical maneuvering, physical training, search and seizure, and interviewing suspected pirates.

Homeported at the Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team in Chesapeake, Va., the AIT unit’s mission aboard Mason is to assist the ship in counter-piracy boarding operations, piracy investigations, and aid in the training of the ship’s VBSS team. The AIT unit is specially trained in advanced maritime enforcement techniques.

Since merging the U.S. Coast Guard with Homeland Security Agency, the Coast Guard has expanded beyond its normal operating area along the U.S. coastline, it now aids the U.S. Navy in counter-piracy and anti-terrorism operations abroad.

Mason has seen its share of piracy activity during the last four months; including the boarding of three pirate dhows, the seizure of pirate weapons and paraphernalia, the sinking of an empty pirate skiff, and the prevention of several attacks.

According to Coast Guard Lt. Jonathan Laraia , officer in charge of the AIT unit, the combination of his team’s considerable training and expertise, and the VBSS teams in-theater experience is the primary strength of their embarkation aboard Mason.

“It’s good to get a different perspective from Sailors here on Mason,” said Laraia. “They share their experiences with us, and we share our expertise with them. We teach and learn from each other, and we are all better off because of it.”

“The training that we’ve received from them is top-notch,” said Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Miguel Carino, USS Mason VBSS team leading petty officer. “Their training and experience combined with ours, makes us that much more ready for real-life operations. When you face a real situation, you can never be too ready. It has been a privilege to work with the AIT team.”

Although their primary mission is to support counter-piracy, the Coast Guardsmen are fully integrated with Mason’s crew.

“We participated in underway replenishments, working parties and helped out any other way we could,” Laraia added. “The Sailors on Mason have been accommodating and welcoming and have really made us feel like part of the crew.”

According to USS Mason Command Master Chief Raymond Kemp, force integration and diversity of experience are an important part of the Navy’s mission.

“Our VBSS team has seen a lot of action this deployment and have succeeded with flying colors,” said Kemp. “Working with our Coast Guard partners makes us even stronger and more prepared to complete the Navy’s mission on the high seas.”

Mason is the flagship of Combined Maritime Forces’ Coalition Task Force (CTF) 151. CTF 151 is a multi-national mission-based task force established by the Combined Maritime Forces in January 2009, to conduct counter-piracy operations in the Southern Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin and Arabian Sea.
Source: navy, June 7, 2011;