USS Freedom’s (LCS 1) boarding team conducted a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercise with the Indonesian Navy, Sept. 11 as part of Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) 2013. The boarding exercise was the last at-sea training event of the multilateral exercise SEACAT, which began Sept. 2.
“There is a sense of pride that the ship and the Sailors have in successfully completing SEACAT, especially on this day,” said Freedom’s Commanding Officer Cmdr. Pat Thien. “We did exactly what the ship was built to do: we operated in a near-shore environment, in littoral waters, with other ships similar in size and we were successful.”
During nearly two weeks at sea, Freedom participated in several boarding exercises with participating regional navies, including Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Like many of the previous events, both the Indonesian and U.S. teams boarded each other’s ships and simulated security sweeps, taking control of engineering and bridge spaces, and searching pre-staged persons of interest for suspicious items and contraband.
As the exercise came to a close, the Sailors onboard Freedom took a moment to remember 9/11 while deployed on a littoral combat ship in support of regional security and stability. Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Aaron Booker from USS Freedom said today’s boarding was particularly significant to his team.
“When 9/11 happened I was at my grandma’s house,” explained Booker. “Before seeing footage of the attack, I was totally oblivious to the world. But that day I was offended and it made me want to get involved. Being on the VBSS team and doing boardings, I feel like I have hands-on involvement in enforcing maritime laws and creating peace.”
“I am proud of our team and our Sailors onboard the Freedom,” said Chief Gunner’s Mate Adan Macias. “It is a great feeling to work with other countries on a day like this. I believe this exercise helps build the strength of the United States and preserve our freedom as a whole. We are deterring aggression, protecting our interests both abroad and at home and maintaining freedom of the seas.”
SEACAT highlights the value of information sharing and multilateral cooperation in scenarios that give participating navies hands-on practice in maritime security operations. The two-week exercise began at Singapore's Changi Naval Base where liaison officers from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United States began working together to track vessels of interest and develop boarding plans. The boarding events occur in several at-sea locations across maritime Southeast Asia with naval assets from each participating nation.
SEACAT is one of the key engagements with regional navies during Freedom's maiden deployment to Southeast Asia. Since arriving in the region, Freedom has also participated in Singapore's International Maritime Defense Exhibition, and two phases of the bilateral exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) - CARAT Malaysia and CARAT Singapore.