NAVAL BASE CORONADO, Calif. --
Marines with the 1st Marine Special Operations
Battalion (1st MSOB), U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations
Command (MARSOC) demonstrated this recently by conducting a maritime
interdiction exercise and Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) training off
the shore of Coronado, Calif. from May 20th to the 24th.
“We can use this skill set all over the world. It’ll
help us build our capability for future maritime operations and build our
ability to work with other SOF (Special Operation Force) groups,” said a 1st
MSOB Master Sgt.
VBSS is the term used by the U.S. Marine Corps Forces
Special Operations Command and other agencies for maritime interdiction,
designed to capture enemy vessels. It is also used to combat terrorism, piracy
and smuggling, and to conduct customs, safety and other inspections. VBSS teams
provide crises response and anti-terrorism capabilities by boarding suspicious ships
that may be trafficking drugs or harboring terrorists.
There are different levels of training, Level I focuses
on ships that comply with the instructions of the inspection team. Level II,
which addresses the tactics used to board vessels that are non-compliant. Level
II ships also have a freeboard (the distance between the waterline and the main
deck of the ship) that is low. Level III and IV which involve non-compliant
vessels that have a high freeboard, or that are actively opposing the boarding,
are handled by Special Operations Forces (SOF).
“It is very important for 1st MSOB to get
back to our maritime roots as we begin our regionalization in the Pacific. We have lost a lot of experience in these
skill sets over the past six years due to our large (footprint) in Afghanistan,
but we are quickly reestablishing our foundational skill sets in maritime
operations which will enable our force to meet the needs of the combatant and special
operations commanders. Maritime Interception Operations (MIO) is going to be
one of core tasks and conducting realistic and difficult training is the only
way we will become proficient in the complex skill set,” said a 1st MSOB
During the evolution, the training involved tactical
movement and shooting, defensive tactics, rappelling, searching, and other team
coordinated exercises. MARSOC operators also trained to fast rope aboard
vessels from helicopters as well as insert from a rigid-hulled inflatable boat
(RHIB). The exercise climaxed with day and night runs. One of the main focuses
of the training is how to safely board and search cargo vessels with proper
climbing and rappelling techniques.
Formal VBSS training was created following the Gulf
War in 1990 as a way to standardize and continue the Maritime Interception
Operations as a result of UN resolutions. Conducting interaction patrols and
using VBSS to search vessels, conduct inspections and disrupt drug and arms
trafficking are elements of maritime operations and allow commercial shipping
to occur safely in a region.
“MARSOC teams are adaptable, scalable forces that
thrive in harsh and confusing environments. We develop our personnel so they
have the experience to meet future needs as we regionally align MARSOC,” said
the 1st MSOB Officer. “Our training allows us to provide SOF support to
maritime and amphibious operations.”