HMAS Darwin’s boarding party teams recently boosted their counter-terrorism skills as the warship begins maritime patrols in the Middle East region where it will be working alongside other members of the 31 nation Combined Maritime Forces (CMF).
During Darwin’s stopover in Bahrain, the Australian sailors conducted a week of “visit, board, search and seizure” (VBSS) tactics training. The fast paced combination of classroom and practical training was provided by the United States Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) Maritime Engagement Team (MET).
The US Coast Guard shared their extensive boarding expertise from their continuing counter-narcotics efforts in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Eastern Pacific, as well as their more recent lessons learnt in the Middle East region. Darwin’s boarding party teams conducted numerous boarding serials earlier this year during training in Australia prior to their deployment. Commander Phillip Henry, Commanding Officer HMAS Darwin, said: “The teams focused on vessel boarding and seizures, which will be similar to the operations we will undertake while at sea. The training with the Coast Guard in Bahrain gave their skills a final polish.”
The training facilities in Bahrain include a 100 square meter ‘ship-in-a-box’ and a 10-meter fishing dhow, with live role players provided by the Coast Guard and US Marine Corps Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Central Command (FASTCENT). Activities during the intensive course included boarding procedures, defensive tactics, communications, questioning and search techniques, as well as close quarter combat tactics, the use of force, and care of the battle casualty. Darwin’s boarding teams were put through multiple scenarios including; approaching a dhow, boarding, searching, and asking basic questions of the master and crew to help analyse the effectiveness of their intelligence gathering techniques.
Special Agents of the United States Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) provided focused training to fine tune the sailors’ skills in counter-narcotic and search techniques. The NCIS agents of the Middle East Field Office Transnational Crimes Unit (TCU) in Bahrain are assigned to Combined Task Force 150 (CTF150) which focusses on maritime security and counter terrorism operations through narcotics interdictions on the Indian Ocean. CTF150 agents will accompany Darwin on patrol to provide law enforcement expertise during security operations. Since 2013, CTF150 has deployed agents on 16 separate missions aboard warships from the United States, France, New Zealand, Australian, Canadian, and the United Kingdom.
Darwin’s primary role in the region is to support CMF operations. She is predominately tasked to support CTF 150 for maritime security and counter-terrorism operations, and CTF 151 for counter-piracy operations.