Members of Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Newcastle recently undertook extensive forensic boarding training from the US Coast Guard (USCG) and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Middle East Field Office at the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Headquarters based in Bahrain.
CMF is a professional, capable and alert force operating in an apolitical environment conducting a broad spectrum of Maritime Security Operations. It is composed of 30 nations from across the globe, who is dedicated to providing an enduring presence in the region, thus setting the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment.
The Newcastle personnel, who will form the ship’s boarding parties now that she has arrived in the Middle East region, were given the opportunity to develop their skills, learn new methodologies and utilise forensic equipment used by one of the world’s most recognised investigative organisations.
Leading Seaman (LS) Benjamin Harris, Royal Australian Navy said of the 7 day course, “We hadn’t seen most of this equipment before so they gave us a very in-depth look at the equipment and showed us how to use it step by step so we’d know what to do when it comes time for the operation itself”
“The course also took us through the At Sea Space Accountability (ASSA), which is basically a technical drawing of a dhow. I was selected by the boarding officer of my team to do this for our boarding so it was great to learn better ways to do that as well.”
The training was offered by NCIS and the US Coast Guard to familiarise the boarding party teams with the current practices of CMF’s assets in the area. The training to incoming crews has proven invaluable in raising standards and the ability to detect illegal activity at the point of contact.
“We offer this training on a regular basis especially to ships we are going to be deploying with,” said Special Agent Josh Jefferson, with the NCIS Contingency Response Field Office. He went onto say,
“A lot of the time, the boarding parties will have done this kind of training before but this is a good refresher and often the first time the crews set foot on a dhow and find out what to look for. The other benefit is that the NCIS has collaborated with the US Coast Guard as well, so we go over everything they could possibly encounter when they get out there to do patrols.”
Petty Officer Michael Palelli, one of the US Coast Guard’s subject matter experts for At Sea Space Accountability stated, “The boarding party from the Newcastle was exceptionally professional, and it is clear upon completion of the week long work up, their skills and confidence had greatly improved. In fact, the storyboard they developed will be used as an example for other coalition partners.”
LS Harris concluded “Without a shadow of a doubt, this was the best course I’ve done in my time with the Navy, we got to refine the skills we’ve already learned but also streamline how we conduct boarding for the specific mission we have. It’s been invaluable because it’s knowledge that will help us ten-fold when we are trying to find what we are looking for on boarding’s and as far as our personal safety goes, you can’t put a price on that.”