GUAM -- Deployed Guided Missile Destroyer USS O’Kane (DDG 77) joined with Mark VI Patrol Boats of Coastal Riverine Group-1 Detachment Guam (CRG-1 DET Guam) Feb. 21 to perform integrated exercises off the coast of Guam.
This exercise allowed the specialized Mark VI Patrol Boats to test their link and voice communications capabilities with a sea-going vessel and conduct a trial underway replenishment. Additionally, Okane’s anti-terrorism team practiced countering small boat attacks as the Mark VI simulated multiple aggressive approaches on the destroyer to test the crew members’ responses.
For Lt. Cmdr. Paul Duenas, officer-in-charge of CRG-1 DET Guam, this rare opportunity to work with a deployed U.S. destroyer at the peak of her readiness was too good to pass up.
“CRG-1 DET Guam is excited for this opportunity to work with the USS O’Kane team,” said Duenas. “This singular event not only highlights the capability of NECC’s newest combatant platform to bridge the gap between brown to blue water operations, but sets the stage for future integrations between Coastal Riverine Forces and our Surface Fleet.”
Commander Colby Sherwood, the commanding officer of O’Kane, was equally enthusiastic to work with the Mark VI boats for both the training opportunity for the crew and for the future of operations in the littorals and beyond.
“The value of increasing the reach of the Mark VI platform in the Western Pacific cannot be overstated. Continued operations between CRU/DES (Cruiser/Destroyer) platforms and the Mark VI’s may facilitate expanding the battlespace between blue water and littoral operations. Improving coordination between the platforms could one day improve the surface fleet’s ability to counter asymmetric threats in areas both near the coast and beyond,” said Sherwood.
The day’s events began with a morning rendezvous with satisfactory communications checks and a seamless transition into the small boat attack scenario. O’Kane’s Anti-Terrorism Watch Officer’s (ATTWO) and Small Caliber Action Team (SCAT) personnel responded and managed the “threat” as the Mark VI’s maneuvered inbound, coming as close as 200 yards. O’Kane’s anti-terrorism Officer, Lt. j.g. Nolan Beasley, was thrilled for his team to take advantage of this unique opportunity:
“This was an effective learning experience that allowed us to refine our capabilities to defend against attack and to see how a small and capable attack boat reacts to actions taken by our ATTWO’s and SCAT team,” said Beasley.
Following the robust Anti-terrorism scenarios, the Mark VI came alongside to attempt a refueling underway. This proof of concept operation proved successful as O’Kane and the Mark VI were able to effectively test refueling methods alongside. Although the practice will need to be refined, it was a significant achievement for the boats that typically cannot operate greater than a few hundred nautical miles from land due to fuel constraints and sea conditions.
The Mark VI Patrol Boats are specialized boats designed to conduct “brown water” operations in the littoral zone. The craft’s mission capabilities include search-and-seizure operations and escort missions, as well as an ability to support special operations forces. The boats were first introduced to the fleet in early 2014 and twelve have been funded to date.
This precipitous opportunity was made possible due to O’Kane’s current deployment in the Western Pacific where she has spent a large amount of time near Guam. O’Kane’s primary mission is to conduct ballistic missile defense, although she is capable of a wide variety of missions including anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and strike warfare.