With what was supposed to be a routine stop for fuel, the USS Cole became a part of naval history when a small boat attack that left a 40 foot by 40 foot gash in the hull of the ship claimed the lives of 17 Sailors and injured 39 more.
This would forever change the Navy's force protection practices and training.
Almost 12 years later to the date, Nimitz and CSG 11 are training to learn from that attack. The lessons learned from that day have transformed how naval security forces prepare and respond to threats while at home and abroad.
"It was clear to me that the responding forces have been practicing their tactics, techniques and procedures," said Rear Adm. Peter Gumataotao, commander CSG 11. "They did a great job at synchronizing their movements, and this illustrates how everything we do now needs to take advantage of the integrated force. As the ship moves into the composite training unit exercise, everything is about integration. It's no longer about one single ship or unit."
In an all-day training event administered by Third Fleet, the forces of CSG 11 responded to multiple scenarios including unauthorized surveillance, rioting crowds, personnel-born improvised explosive devices (IED), small boat attacks and vehicle born IEDs. The FPX is part of a pre-deployment certification that every ship undergoes as it prepares for overseas operations. This particular exercise was modeled after a 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
"This was a fully integrated training effort," said Cmdr. Steven Richards, anti-terrorism force protection officer of CSG 11. "We were tasked to analyze and respond to multiple threats on two different pier facilities with five of our ships. We went beyond what was required for our qualification and certifications."
Realistic training environments are key to the success of the evolutions. Mentally drawing trainees into a scenario with accurate replication ensures they are fully involved and creates a more natural response. Strategic Operations, a San Diego based company, provided the makeup artists, props, costumes and simulated explosives to create the hyper-realistic environment usually found in Hollywood.
"It was a phenomenal training evolution," said Richards. "Even with many of the crew members playing the role of the opposing force, the realism was incredible. This event incorporated a response from not only the security forces but the medical team, damage control team and command and control departments, all of which played an important role."