View Full Version : FAST Marines Train for Ship Boarding Action

10-29-03, 05:33 AM
FAST Marines Train for Ship Boarding Action
Story Number: NNS031027-06
Release Date: 10/27/2003 12:58:00 PM

By Journalist Seaman Patrick Dille, 7th Fleet Public Affairs

ABOARD USS BLUE RIDGE, At sea (NNS) -- Marines from 2nd Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST) Co., 7th Platoon, 1st squad, based out of Yorktown Naval Weapons Station, Va., conducted the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) drills Oct. 18 and 25 aboard the 7th Fleet command-and-control ship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19).

"VBSS is not our area of expertise, so it’s good for the Marines to practice something they rarely get to do,” said Marine Capt. Bryce T. Armstrong, 2nd FAST, 7th Platoon assistant commander, a native of Columbia, Md.

Armstrong described the Marines’ mission as a means to deter, detect and defend against terrorist threats aboard Blue Ridge. He explained that, normally, the squad repels from a tower to simulate fast roping from a helo.

“This was the first time we’ve been able to do a VBSS in such a realistic environment. We made plenty of mistakes, but on the same token, we did a lot right. The focus is to learn from our mistakes.”

Lance Cpl. Michael Roy was the last Marine to slither down the rope. He was a designated marksman with the squad and provided security for the team.

“I used a modified M-14 set up as a sniper rifle with a scope to give the other guys cover,” said Roy of Fort Meyers, Fla.

The FAST Marines said they are trained as infantry and aren’t afraid of fast roping from the chopper, even if they haven’t had much experience; in fact they relish operations like VBSS.

“You’re vulnerable when you’re on the helo, or on the rope,” said Roy. “You want to get down to the deck and get to your spot, but coming down is awesome. It’s the best part of the whole exercise. I could do it all day.”

These tactics are an example of how tight 1st squad members are among themselves, like brothers from a small town. They back each other up with their lives. Marine Sgt. Omar Gutierrez is 1st squad leader and plays the role of older brother. His squad follows his every move and relies on his experience as a leader.

“These are my boys. They do what I tell them to do,” said Gutierrez, from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. “You’ve got to get the feel for everybody, because everybody’s different. But we’re tight, you know - we watch out for each other.”

“He leads by example,” said Armstrong. “He likes to train and he’s tough on them. His guys perform at a level higher than what experience should allow; more mature than what their age would suggest.”

Some of the Marines in the squad who haven’t experienced many shipboard exercises were a bit apprehensive about the helo exercise at first, but clicked into the rhythm of the operation once it started.

“It’s kind of a fear of the unknown,” said Lance Cpl. Dennis Andersen, of Houston. “But when you start clearing a stack, you forget about all that.”

Blue Ridge is the command and control platform for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. The 7th Fleet area of responsibility for U.S. Navy operations encompasses 52 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian oceans. On average, there are 50 ships, 200 aircraft and approximately 20,000 Sailors operating in the area. U.S. Seventh Fleet is commanded by Vice Adm. Robert Willard.

Blue Ridge is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and is commanded by Capt. J. Stephen Maynard.

For related news, visit the Commander 7th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/c7f.