US, Iraq, Pakistan conduct VBSS drills in Bahrain

Iraqi and Pakistani naval officers joined the U.S. Coast Guard for a multilateral visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercise at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Feb. 26-Mar. 9.

The exercise, held at the ship-in-the-box (SIB) facility, is the first time in three years that the Iraqi and Pakistani navies have come together for the VBSS exercise. The exercise also marks the first time the exercise has focused on evidence collection and documentation of items confiscated during VBSS interactions.

The exercise will share best practices from all navies, improve combined interoperability, and develop common skills among partner nations. Through the subject matter expert exchanges, exercises facilitated by the MET allow the U.S. and partner nations to work on increasing cooperation and understanding of maritime security operations.

“These VBSS engagements between partner nations are crucial to strengthening solid relationships throughout the region,” said Cmdr. Alain Balmaceda, deputy commander of PATFORSWA. “My team is fully committed to developing mutual maritime capabilities, especially in maritime boarding operations, so that when the situation does arise, we are able to rely on each other to ensure the free flow of commerce in the region.”

The 3,000-square foot SIB training facility has held more than 100 engagements in the last six years and is used to develop close-quarters techniques. The dhow located in the facility is a 60-foot dhow replica with more than 20 hidden compartments used to train personnel with a realistic approach to VBSS operations.

Following the ashore training, Coast Guardsmen and members from the Pakistani navy will board USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332) to provide an immersive simulation of VBSS situations for the nations to utilize in effective cross-force training. The underway portion will enable better understanding of vessel types, small boat operations, and basic seamanship. The navies will also work on engineer and damage control familiarization on Maui.

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