The threat of pirates on the high seas continues to bring unique challenges to the international maritime community. With ships reporting 445 attacks and pirates hijacking 53 ships, capturing 1,181 seafarers and killing eight in 2010 , international cooperation is essential as maritime partners worldwide collaborate to prevent, respond and prosecute acts of piracy.
One of these collaborations recently took place aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Mason between the U.S. Coast Guard’s Advanced Interdiction Team (AIT) and the U.S. Navy’s Visit, Board, Search and Seizure Team (VBSS). In the following excerpt from a recent U.S. Navy article, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeffry A. Willadsen describes the teamwork between the two services.
The USS Mason has seen its share of piracy activity during the last four months, including the boarding of three pirate dhows, the seizure of pirate weapons and paraphernalia, the sinking of an empty pirate skiff and the prevention of several attacks.
The AIT unit has been embarked aboard Mason since May and regularly takes part in their training, including hand-to-hand combat, tactical maneuvering, physical training, search and seizure and interviewing suspected pirates. The AIT unit is specially trained in advanced maritime enforcement techniques.
According to Coast Guard Lt. Jonathan Laraia , officer in charge of the AIT unit, the combination of his team’s considerable training and expertise, and the VBSS teams in-theater experience is the primary strength of their embarkation aboard Mason.
“It’s good to get a different perspective from Sailors here on Mason,” said Laraia. “They share their experiences with us, and we share our expertise with them. We teach and learn from each other, and we are all better off because of it.”
“The training that we’ve received from them is top-notch,” said Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Miguel Carino, USS Mason VBSS team leading petty officer. “Their training and experience combined with ours, makes us that much more ready for real-life operations. When you face a real situation, you can never be too ready. It has been a privilege to work with the AIT team.”
Although their primary mission is to support counter-piracy, the Coast Guardsmen are fully integrated with Mason’s crew.
“We participated in underway replenishments, working parties and helped out any other way we could,” Laraia added. “The S ailors on Mason have been accommodating and welcoming and have really made us feel like part of the crew.”
According to USS Mason Command Master Chief Raymond Kemp, force integration and diversity of experience are an important part of the Navy’s mission.
“Our VBSS team has seen a lot of action this deployment and have succeeded with flying colors,” said Kemp. “Working with our Coast Guard partners makes us even stronger and more prepared to complete the Navy’s mission on the high seas.”