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U.S, Iraq, Pakistan Conduct VBSS Exercise

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Victoria Kinney, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command | March 02, 2017

MANAMA, Bahrain --

The U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Force South West Asia (PATFORSWA) Maritime Engagement Team (MET) with Iraqi and Pakistani naval officers conducted 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 PATFORSWA-led VBSS exercise. The exercise also marks for the first time a focus 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 amongst 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 training facility SIB has held over 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 over 20 hidden compartments used to train personnel with a realistic approach to VBSS operations.

"We look forward to sharing knowledge and experiences with our Pakistani and Iraqi counterparts," said Petty Officer 2nd Class William Bohannon, a maritime enforcement specialist. "As part of the USCG Maritime Engagement Team, I am fortunate to be an integral part of our mission in strengthening existing partnerships and increasing mutual tactical proficiency."

Following the ashore training, Coastguardsmen 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, as well as work on small boat operations and basic seamanship. The navies will also work on engineer and damage control familiarization on Maui.

PATFORSWA’s mission is to command, train, equip and provide mission-ready Coast Guard forces to conduct maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. U.S. 5th Fleet's area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles and includes the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, and parts of the Indian Ocean. The area is comprised of 27 countries, includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, and the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.