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    Exclamation Secure Ship

    Secure Ship
    Maritime Raid Force thwarts mock piracy on high seas
    Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Cabrera

    ABOARD S.S. STEPHEN W. PLESS (October 17, 2008) -- The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Maritime Raid Force was inbound to the SS Maj. Stephen W. Pless, a U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command maritime prepositioning ship, with one purpose in mind - a ship takedown. The unfortunate crew of mock enemy pirates were overwhelmed by the team's lightning-fast reaction resulting from the vessel, board, search and seizure training conducted by members of the III Marine Expeditionary Force Special Operations Training Group, Sept. 29- Oct. 3.

    The training was conducted to give the MEU raid force the skills and experience necessary to confidently conduct maritime interdictions.

    When a vessel is suspected of carrying unauthorized cargo, fails to comply with international laws or is under the control of pirates, maritime interdictions are used to regain control of the vessel or enforce compliance with regulations.

    The Maritime Raid Force is comprised of a direct action platoon, a security element, an air combat element and a Navy prize crew. It is the prize crew's job to pilot the vessel once it is secured.

    The MEU flew into action for the scenario when the Pless unexpectedly changed course and began circling in the water, both signs it was in distress or under the control of pirates.

    Two UH-1N Huey helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced) were dispatched to circle the vessel and serve as the eyes in the skies. The Huey pilots reported back to unit commanders the presence of pirates aboard the ship.

    The MEU launched the raid force in six CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters which quickly closed in on the vessel.

    The direct action platoon put the first boots on deck by fast roping from the hovering CH-46E helicopters.

    The platoon, a maritime version of a police special weapons and tactics team, secured the flight deck of the vessel. The direct action platoon then quickly moved to key spaces of the ship like the bridge, captain's quarters and engine room, eliminating hostiles and securing detainees for interrogation.

    Once the key spaces were secured, the prize crew boarded and took control of the ship.

    Although the training was a simulation, the experience left the Marines feeling more confident in their maritime capabilities.

    "It gave us better knowledge of how a ship is structured, better knowledge of where to find things, and how to get there quicker, making us more efficient in doing this type of mission," said Sgt. Caleb Nehls, an assistant team leader with the direct action platoon.

    When dealing with maritime operations, the situations and the vessels may change, but the overall objectives of a vessel, board, search and seizure operation remain the same.

    Boarding the ship and securing the key spaces of domination as quick as possible are the fundamentals stressed in the course, said Gunnery Sgt. David Jarvis, the Special Missions Branch chief instructor with SOTG.

    West stated the same close quarter battle tactics and techniques used on land can be applied to maritime interdictions.

    "Through this training they learn the same tactics they are already familiar with on land can be applied in a maritime interdiction environment where everything is done either on board a ship or a gas or oil platform," he said. "The same fundamentals apply."


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