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SOUTH CHINA SEA - Sailors assigned to USS Freedom's (LCS 1) visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team conducted a boarding exercise with the Royal Brunei Navy Sept. 7 as part of Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) 2013.
"Training with other countries has been a great opportunity," said Engineman 2nd Class Chat Rushing, a Freedom VBSS team member. "It is helpful to see how they do things and to learn from them."
Freedom is one of three U.S. ships along with a P-3C maritime patrol aircraft participating in the exercise. The boarding exercise with the Royal Brunei Navy is Freedom's second major event during SEACAT, following a boarding series with the Royal Malaysian Navy Sept. 4. The dry cargo and ammunition ship, USNS Matthew Perry (T-AKE 9), also acted as a simulated vessel of interest during two separate boarding events with the Thai and Malaysian navies this past week.
The boarding event began when a team from the Royal Brunei Navy Patrol Vessel (PV) Darussalam 80 boarded Freedom based on information provided by a Bruneian maritime patrol aircraft. After the boarding was complete, Freedom's VBSS team had an opportunity to board Darussalam. During the exercise, participants went through and secured engineering and bridge spaces and searched for pre-staged personnel who role-played as suspects.
As with previous boarding events during SEACAT, evaluators from the U.S. Navy Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training (MCAST) group supervised both teams and provided hands-on training in boarding techniques and procedures. MCAST divided participants into bridge and engineering sweep teams, and set up scenarios to challenge both the Bruneian and U.S. groups. After the boarding events were complete, a debrief was held to exchange best practices and lessons learned.
"The training went well," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Bruno Doamaral, a MCAST member. "I could tell the Bruneians had previous boarding experience, and overall they were very receptive to our training and eager to learn. They were already applying techniques we taught them from previous training operations."
SEACAT highlights the value of information sharing and multilateral cooperation in scenarios that give participating navies hands-on practice in maritime security operations. The two-week exercise began Sept. 2 at Singapore's Changi Naval Base where liaison officers from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United States began working together to track vessels of interest and develop boarding plans. The boarding events occur in several at-sea locations across maritime Southeast Asia with naval assets from each participating nation.
As SEACAT continues through Sept. 12, Freedom will participate in more boarding events. The exercise is one of the key engagements with regional navies during Freedom's maiden deployment to Southeast Asia. Since arriving in the region, Freedom has also participated in Singapore's International Maritime Defense Exhibition, and two phases of the bilateral exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) - CARAT Malaysia and CARAT Singapore.