May 11, 2020 – The Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) team aboard USS Stethem completed their VBSS certification at Naval Base San Diego April 22.
The certification was conducted by the Afloat Training Group (ATG) and is a requirement for ships to be able to conduct real world VBSS missions on deployment, such as counter drug and maritime influence operations. It included a comprehensive material and administrative review, several days of classroom and practical training, and a final assessment consisting of three drills designed to test the team’s ability to query, approach, and board another vessel.
The first drill the team completed was an approach and assist visit. The team approaches the subject vessel and speaks to its master, building rapport, gathering intelligence and asking the vessel master if they require any form of assistance.
The second drill has the VBSS team demonstrate their ability to board and conduct a search of the vessel. This evolution requires good communication between team members and proficiency in advanced security force techniques. During the search, the team ensures that the vessel is in compliance with international law and any applicable United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
In the final drill, Stethem was assessed on their ability to transfer and control a detainee brought onboard the ship by the VBSS team. The ship has a special security team for this exact scenario, led by the ship’s chief master at arms, Master-at-Arms 1st Class Robert Lees. During the drill, Lees demonstrated the detainee handling techniques.
“On board Stethem, we train so that when called upon, we are ready to competently and confidently execute our mission,“ said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Aaron Smith. “I’d like to thank ATG San Diego for their support and flexibility in helping us successfully complete this certification,” said Lt. j.g. Pierce Demarreau, Stethem’s antiterrorism officer and VBSS team leader. “They provided outstanding training and I am confident Stethem will be ready to execute any VBSS mission when the time comes.”