USS MOUNT WHITNEY, Baltic Sea — Finnish naval forces performed a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) training scenario aboard USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) during Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) exercise 2009, June 15.
The VBSS scenario, intended to eliminate errors through trial and error and repetition, is one part of BALTOPS's robust training agenda with partner nations to counter threats to maritime safety and security in the Baltic region.
The 15-man VBSS team simulated the boarding by loading into a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) to ascend a rope ladder into the skin of the ship. The team made their way from the lower engineering spaces, through the mess decks and up to the bridge.
"This is the first time we've gone into a ship this big," said Finnish Navy Lt. Robreg Bjorn, squad leader for the boarding team. "We took it slow and kept it basic to identify any areas to improve on."
Interrogation, hand-to-hand submission and tactical infiltration are a few tactical techniques they worked on during the exercise.
"We're trying to get better at what we do, so that hopefully when we're sent on a real mission, we'll be ready,, said Finnish Navy Cpl. Petri Linna, weapons specialist operator.
The exercise lasted over two hours with a 20 minute de-briefing reviewing the unit's performance.
"Even though this exercise was basic, we followed every procedure to make it as safe as possible," said Finnish Navy Cpl. Iivari Hovi, special weapons operator.
The boarding team has been attached to Mount Whitney since the start of BALTOPS and will continue to conduct VBSS training with U.S. and partner nation ships.
BALTOPS is comprised of forces from 12 countries and is the largest multinational naval exercise this year in the Baltic Sea. Annually hosted by the United States Navy, the exercise aims to improve maritime security in the Baltic Sea through increased interoperability and cooperation among regional allies.
Mount Whitney, home ported in Gaeta, Italy is the flagship for Commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet and routinely operates throughout the Sixth Fleet area of responsibility with a hybrid crew of U.S. Sailors and Military Sealift Command Civilian Mariners.