USS VELLA GULF, At Sea– Sailors aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) conduct anti-terrorism/force protection (ATFP) training underway while on deployment to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) in order to maintain effectiveness and vigilance while in foreign and domestic ports.

The training uses real-world scenarios and evaluates the ship’s ability to defend itself and its personnel in each situation. It also measures the crew’s ability to counter a variety of security threats the ship could face.

“The training we conduct is not geared towards any one particular port,” said Vella Gulf’s executive officer, Capt. Mark S. Young, of Hayward, Calif. “It’s a generic set of drills that, if properly done, can work anywhere. We are training for any occasion.”

Vella Gulf Sailors train in sea and shore surveillance, protests, improvised explosive devices, bomb threats, and small boat and swimmer-attack drills. The series of drills are designed to identify weaknesses in order to protect the ship during overseas and homeland operations.

“The at-sea training is important in order to avoid complacency,” said Ensign Chad T. Boser, of South St. Paul, Minn., Vella Gulf’s force protection officer. “We haven’t been in port very often, and we need to practice these drills because if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

“We do a lot of training so that, come game time, the game is easy, so to speak,” said Young. “The training helps improve our proficiency.”

Shipboard training helps prepare the crew and also cuts down on the need to attend shore-based schools. Chief Master at Arms Charles Lee Wilkinson, of Copper Hill, Tenn., commented on how the training Vella Gulf conducts at sea frees up time for the Sailors to attend other required schools.

“The between-life-lines training we do here cuts down on the pipeline training for people once we get back,” said Wilkinson. “We are required to have a certain amount of security reaction force advanced (SRFA), security reaction force basic (SRFB) and naval security force sentry (NSFS) personnel. We are allowed to teach the NSFS and SRFB courses aboard now, which lets us send those people straight to school for SRFA and visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) when we get back instead of having to go through all three.”

Force protection requires vigilance and attention to detail from all hands. Vella Gulf’s leaders are ensuring their Sailors understand the importance of their roles.

“It’s a constant battle to keep everybody properly focused and motivated,” said Young. “It is a big challenge for leaders to motivate people in the right way, not just focusing on an inspection, but focusing on the real thing. That’s why we continue to show that everybody’s position has value, no matter if you’re the rover or the anti-terrorism watch officer (ATWO). Whatever the case may be, you have an important position, and you must do that well.”

Vella Gulf is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group to conduct maritime security operations (MSO). MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists’ use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

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