USS SAN ANTONIO --
Marines and sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's maritime raid force conducted a maritime interdiction operation training exercise at sea aboard the USS San Antonio (LPD 17), Dec. 18, 2012.
"This training was teaching anti-piracy techniques," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Bagorskas, a Kenilworth, N.J., native, and lead MIO instructor with the Special Operations Training Group. "This training gives them another tool the Marines can use to accomplish their mission. Instead of just being land or air based, this helps take us back to our roots of the continental days when Marines would fight pirates on ships."
"It also gives the MEU the ability to interdict suspected pirate vessels and gives them the ability to be able to board vessels, whether they are large or small, in order to figure out what is going on and secure the ship," said Staff Sgt. Ryan J. Kuperus, a Newark, N.Y., native, and lead tactics instructor with SOTG.
Bagorskas brought up a more recent MIO the 15th MEU conducted called Magellan Star. During the mission, the Marines and sailors helped secure a pirate-seized German cargo ship off the coast of Yemen in 2010, safely rescuing all the hostages and capturing and prosecuting the pirates without having to fire a single shot.
This training exercise simulated the San Antonio being a non-compliant ship that was boarded by the Marines and sailors who inserted from a CH-53E Super Stallion and two MH-60S Seahawks.
Bagorskas said once the Marines boarded, they pushed through the ship and secured their main points of interest. During the mission they prosecuted a threat in the well deck, established and maintained communications, and evacuated two crew members who sustained injury and a casualty they took while operating. Once the ship was cleared and deemed safe, they handed the ship over to the Navy ship control team.
Perfecting this training gives the 26th MEU the capability to more safely and proficiently perform this operation while on its deployment, if necessary. To provide guidance on how to improve, Marines and sailors from SOTG graded the boarding and clearing of the ship.
"It is important to train on exercises like this and improve their skill set because part of the MEU's area of operations is the Gulf of Aden," said Kuperus. "That area has been a real hot spot of pirate activities in the last couple years."
As the first major training operation these Marines and sailors have conducted since completing the course for visit, board, search and seizure, Kuperus said they performed well. He said as long as they maintain brilliance in the basics and don't try anything fancy, they will continue to be successful.
This exercise was part of the 26th MEU's third major training evolution of their pre-deployment training program. The 26th MEU operates continuously across the globe, providing the president and unified combatant commanders with a forward-deployed, sea-based quick reaction force. The MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response, and limited contingency operations. The 26th MEU is slated to deploy in 2013.