SOUDA BAY, Crete (May 26, 2011) – The Visit, Board, Search and Seizure team (boarding team) from USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) was taught the elements of psychology that come into play during maritime interdiction operations (MIO) during a May 25 classroom training presented as part exercise Phoenix Express 2011 (PE-11).
The 12 Sailors were joined by their multinational exercise partners from Greece, Morocco and Croatia in the hours-long class at the NATO MIO Training Center here as the trainees learned a variety of psychological factors that come into play when boarding a vessel suspected of engaging in illicit trafficking.
Greek armed forces Maj. Konstantine Liolios, the psychiatrist who instructed the class, devoted the first part of the lecture to psychological factors which often affect MIO boarding teams, with the second hour addressing the psychological factors thatoften stem from interacting with the crew of the suspected vessel.
“Stress is something we are faced with every day, and we have to learn to be comfortable with it, and manage it properly,” said Liolios. “A boarding member who is overstressed or fearful of the mission will spread that anxiety to the crew of the suspected vessel, and that can be very problematic.”
Liolios used the classroom time to teach the Sailors from the different MIO boarding teams everything from proper stress-reducing breathing techniques to effective team-building scenarios designed to bring a boarding team closer to one another professionally.
“As members of a boarding team, it’s essential that you act as a team,” Liolios told the class. “It’s what is known as a ‘correlational paradigm’ -- the more cohesion the team has, the better the performance, and vice-versa.”
The second part of the class helped the boarding teams recognize and understand the psychological standpoint from the crew of the suspected vessel’s point of view, and included breakdowns of ways boarding teams are to use the vessel’s chain of command and maintain professionalism when dealing with the crew to avoid a catastrophic shift in control. Basic communication rules stressed during the lecture reminded the boarding members to always treat others with dignity and respect and to maintain eye contact, as well as looking for clues in a crewmembers body language.
The Sailors from Bradley were hopeful that despite the inevitable language barriers they would encounter during PE-11, they would walk away with a better understanding of how boarding teams from other cultures kept the seas safe for all.
“We’re hoping to pick up some tips from the other boarding teams here at PE-11,” said U.S. Navy Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class (SW) Jeremy Allen, the Captain’s liaison for the USS Bradley boarding team. “Our goal here is to get more proficient in our own training, and at the same time help train our allies.”
“What we take away from this class will help us to know each other better and be more coherent in our duties,” said Royal Morocco Navy Lt. Amine Khalid, a member of a Moroccan boarding team who acted as an English translator for his teammates during the class. “This class will help us to pay better attention to detail during our training at PE-11, and during actual missions in the future.”
At the end of the class, Liolios completed his lecture by underscoring the importance of stress management techniques and recognizing severe stress reactions.
“All of the things taught in this class are common sense, but should still be kept in the forefront of the boarding team’s mind,” said Liolios. “We need to be stressed enough that it improves our level of functioning, so that we can perform each mission as safe and proficient as possible.”
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe -U.S. Naval Forces Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/naveur/.