U.S. Marines Conduct Counter Piracy Training
31st MEU Marines Retake Stolen Vessel in Training Exercise.
By Lance Cpl. Kevin M. Knallay
A group of role players took control of the ship MV 1st Lt. Alex Bonnyman (T-AK 3003) when they threw the captain and the crew overboard during a training exercise Feb. 8.
Shortly after an ally’s ship rescued the drifting crew, Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Maritime Special Purpose Force responded to the simulated seizure. Within hours, two AH-1W Super Cobras and one UH-1N Huey with scout snipers onboard began to circle the ship. Six more helicopters with more Marines rapidly approached the ship.
This scene aboard the Bonnyman was part of a Vessel Board, Search and Seizure exercise involving 31st MEU Marines and sailors Feb. 4-8.
The MSPF, taught by instructors with III Marine Expeditionary Force’s Special Operations Training Group, trained to take control of vessels that may be transporting drugs, weapons and wanted personnel. Ships violating blockades may also be boarded by the force.
After the Cobras and Huey arrived on scene, the rest of the MSPF followed in four CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters and two CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters. The team then fast-roped onto the Bonnyman’s deck.
Once aboard, the MSPF secured the ship. While doing so, they took 16 role players, acting as the occupiers, into custody. After the team searched and interrogated the detainees, a rescued crew member told the Marines about four suspicious boxes loaded onto the ship and the plan to load them onto a speed boat farther out to sea.
While clearing the ship’s cargo hold, the Marines found the four suspicious boxes, which contained such items as blasting caps, detonation cord and mortar shells.
After the MSPF secured the ship, sailors with Essex Expeditionary Strike Group took control of the Bonnyman until its crew could be returned.
During the first day of training, the service members received classes on the aspects of VBSS, such as preparation needed, vital areas on a ship and common layouts of ships. The Marines and sailors spent days two through four becoming familiar with ship recovery, which included fast roping or climbing to the deck and what sort of intelligence needs to be reported. On day five, the team conducted a field training exercise, during which the instructors observed and evaluated the service members’ performance in taking control of the ship.
The ship recovery exercises proved challenging for the Marines, but many of them said they did what they do best – adapted and overcame.
“The smaller spaces require a lot more attention to detail and make it hard to move,” said Gunnery Sgt. Weslee Baker, a platoon commander with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, currently the 31st MEU’s Battalion Landing Team. “But the Marines performed exactly the way they were trained and made it a successful mission.”
Source: U.S. Marines in Japan
Pictures from the Counter Piracy Training
Petty Officer 2nd Class David Gomez Hernandez, a sailor with the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group, climbs aboard the Bonnyman. Gomez Hernandez was part of a Navy crew that took control of the ship until its regular crew could be returned. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Kevin M. Knallay)
A member of the 31st MEU’s reconnaissance element stands guard over detainees. Sixteen Marines from 7th Communications Battalion, III MEF Headquarters Group, acted as occupiers during the training. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Kevin M. Knallay)