The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) was the stage for a compliant boarding exercise involving visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams from U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), July 27, as part of exercise Malabar 2014.
“Every boarding event comes with risk,” said John S. McCain’s Commanding Officer Cmdr. Chase Sargeant. “In a real world boarding, Sailors would be going into the unknown, whether compliant or non-complaint, inspecting for illegal drugs, weapons, and human trafficking.”
This is a skill we need to hone. I believe it is the nature of the Navy to be prepared for anything and today’s exercise helped keep our team sharp.”
The exercise began with JMSDF sailors from the Japan Ship Ashigara (DDG 178) boarding John S. McCain which was already engaged in the scenario. The team leader, JMSDF Lt. j.g. Rikiya Akahane, climbed the pilot’s ladder from a small craft, immediately drew his weapon and scanned for contacts before signaling his team members to come aboard.
Once the entire Japanese VBSS team had successfully made it aboard and set up a perimeter around the boat deck, they met up with Lt. j.g. Joseph Travers and the U.S. Navy VBSS team.
“The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force boarders were fantastic,” said Travers, leader of the John S. McCain VBSS team. “There was a bit of a language barrier, but our collective understanding of close quarter combat vastly outweighed it.
The combined forces split into two teams. Team one began the accent to the pilothouse, where they would question a simulated captain and review the ship’s logs, while team two made its way through the rest of the ship, checking for hostile contacts.
After team one’s inspection of the ship’s logs and interview of the captain, they returned to the boat deck, which team two had secured in preparation for their arrival.
Both teams then separated back into full U.S. Navy and JMSDF teams as the small craft returned alongside John S. McCain to retrieve the Sailors and return to the Ashigara.
Still fully immersed in the exercise, Akahane prepared to depart the U.S. Navy destroyer and knelt in front of the pilot’s ladder that descended into his team’s boat with his weapon drawn, remaining vigilant.
Finally, Akahane holstered his weapon and shared a gracious farewell handshake with Travers.
“Thank you very much for inviting us to conduct this training,” said Akahane. “This was a great experience for me, and also my team. I look forward to similar operations in the future.”
“Today’s exercise has expanded my already tremendous confidence in the ability of not only my own VBSS team, but also that of the JMSDF,” said Sargeant.
The oceans remain the most vital component to global commerce. Conducting maritime interdiction and sanction enforcement using VBSS teams as the main element is a crucial part of the U.S. 7th Fleet’s mission of supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
“The day’s operations were a success, not only for the United States Navy, but our friends and allies, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force,” said Sargeant.
Press Release, July 30, 2014; Image: US Navy