USS Freedom VBSS Team Trains with Singaporean CG

USS Freedom VBSS Team Trains with Singaporean CG

Sailors assigned to USS Freedom’s (LCS 1) visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team staged a compliant boarding exercise with a team from the Singaporean Police Coast Guard July 17 as part of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2013.

CARAT is a series of bilateral military exercises between the U.S. Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timore Leste.

The VBSS training took place at Singapore’s Coast Guard Brani Base, and also included evaluators from the U.S. Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training (MCAST) team. MCAST is designed to train U.S. and partner nations in boarding practices and procedures.

“We train with different navies specifically for VBSS exercises and operations, exchanging knowledge and techniques,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate Elias Inoa. “They show us things we don’t know and we show them things they don’t know. It’s truly an exchange between professionals.”

During the exercise, participants embarked a simulated cargo ship, secured engineering and bridge spaces, and searched for suspicious or illegal activity. The MCAST group divided participants into bridge, engineering and sweep teams, and set up unpredictable scenarios to challenge the groups.

“I’ve never done any training this in-depth before,” said Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Michael Davis. “It really helped us learn how to communicate with each other on a mission, rely on each others observations. It helped strengthen the bond between us as team members.”

Chief Fire Controlman Richard Schaefer, Freedom’s VBSS team leader, said the exercise was a rare opportunity for an interchange of ideas and best practices with their Singaporean counterparts, and a welcome addition to the CARAT exercise.

“This exercise will help us prepare for the challenges of compliant boardings in Southeast Asia. It will also build the confidence we have in each other as maritime partners, since we’ll know we both received the same level of training,” said Schaefer. “We will learn different tactics from them, and they will learn from us.”

MCAST team members said they were impressed that both teams stayed motivated and never gave up during the long, sometimes frustrating evolution. “The main thing we want them to get out of this exercise is not to give up and keep trying to work through the problems,” said Inoa. “I really enjoyed working with the Freedom team, and hope to see them again next year.”

USS Freedom deployed to Southeast Asia in March with 91 Sailors on board, including personnel to operate an MH-60R helicopter and VBSS teams to operate two 11-meter Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB), as part of the ship’s maritime security module.

Press Release, July 18, 2013; Image: US Navy