The U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Engagement Team (MET) with the Omani, United Arab Emirati and Bahraini Coast Guard participated in a 10-day visit board search and seizure (VBSS) subject matter expert exchange (SMEE) at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain, Sept. 18-29.
The VBSS exchange focused on boarding procedures, defensive tactics, boarding team communications, maritime tactical egress and tactical combat casualty care. Throughout the exchange, participants shared their organization’s tactics, techniques and procedures in order to increase proficiency and interoperability in maritime law enforcement.
“Each of these engagements provides us an opportunity to ensure a high level of interoperability between U.S. forces and nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council,” said Lt. j.g. Meredith Anderson, MET supervisor. “It further encourages each of these nations to adopt the best practices for the job.”
The exchange was one of two U.S. Coast Guard-led VBSS engagements conducted this month. The MET also conducted a 10-day VBSS SMEE with the Egyptian Navy, Iraqi Marines and Jordanian Royal Navy involving exchanges in counter-smuggling practices. According to Anderson, smuggling techniques are constantly evolving.
“The SMEEs are highly effective in promulgating the trends observed in this area of operation and providing best practices to partner nations for conducting the counter-smuggling mission set,” said Anderson. “While engaging in operations in the Arabian Gulf, being able to work together seamlessly with partner nations allows for multinational cooperation at stopping illicit trafficking, as well as facilitating the sharing of multinational best practices in maritime law enforcement. When law enforcement teams utilize the same tactics, the results benefit all involved.”
The VBSS exchange took place at the MET facility which encompasses a 65-foot fishing dhow and a 3,000-square-foot building laid out similar to most ships known as the “ship in a box.”
“[Conducting exchanges in this facility] helps us know what each other’s procedures are,” said Maritime Enforcement Specialist 2nd Class Michael Dean. “Through these exercises, we’re all able to conduct boardings more professionally, safely and humanitarianly.”
USCG Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA), the Coast Guard’s largest unit outside the United States, was established in 2002 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). PATFORSWA plays a key role in maritime interdiction operations, maritime infrastructure protection and maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf as part of Commander, Task Force (CTF) 55.
The MET was established in 2005 to maintain the operational proficiency for PATFORSWA units. Since then, the MET has grown to also support U.S. Central Command’s theater campaign plan and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s (NAVCENT) theater security cooperation objectives.