Saturday, January 21, 2012

USS Nitze Sailors Practice VBSS Operations

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeff Atherton, Enterprise Strike Group Public Affairs

USS NITZE, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) participated in a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) training exercise, Jan. 18.

The scenario tested the ability of the VBSS team to conduct a boarding after pirates attacked a vessel.

"They hit us hard," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Jehovani Berrocales, the assistant boarding officer for the VBSS team. "The scenario was difficult. This proves we need to be ready for anything."

The VBSS team boarded a training ship with personnel playing the role of foreign sailors to give the team a sense of what it may be like to actually board another vessel.

"We usually board the ships to verify their paperwork and documentation but also to make sure they do not have any contraband or weapons onboard," said Chief Fire Controlman Matthew Bergroschtje, boarding officer for the VBSS team.

In this case, a mock distress call was received from the training vessel and the VBSS team responded.

"When it happens for real, it is usually just like the training," said Berrocales.

After a search of the vessel, there were no pirates found remaining aboard.

"We need to be able to think on our feet," said Berrocales. "If there are non-compliant people, we need to know what to do immediately."

In most cases, the VBSS teams visit the other vessel to give them supplies and check documentation.

"Our guys are gaining experience and they are taking the training seriously," said Bergroschtje. "We need to get on the other vessel and help the people who need help."

"We will take them food, water and medical supplies," said Berrocales. "It is important to have a good relationship with the local boats."

At the end of the event, the team accomplished their goals.

"Everyone did really well," said Bergroschtje. "There are always areas to improve in but all major objectives were met."

The crew of the training vessel in the scenario was taken care of and the VBSS team helped restore power and operations to the vessel.

"It is very intense training," said Berrocales. "You don't know how you will react until you are in the situation and our guys did very well."

Nitze is part of the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group, which is underway conducting a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX). COMPTUEX is designed to bring every part of a strike group together to work effectively and efficiently as one cohesive unit, ensuring overall readiness prior to regular deployment.