Coast Guardsman Maritime Law Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Nathaniel Fuentes displays a forward weapons posture during a tactical weapons handling exercise with the visit, board, search and seizure team aboard the guided-missile destroyer Winston S. Churchill. (MC2 Aaron Chase / Navy)
A Coast Guard interdiction team serving with sailors on a five-month counterpiracy deployment to the Middle East returned home March 22.
The advanced interdiction team operated on the destroyers Farragut and Winston S. Churchill, working side by side with Navy visit, board, search and seizure teams.
“Being a cohesive unit was challenging, but it was very successful,” said Lt. j.g. Chris Bradbury, a team leader with the AIT, part of the Chesapeake, Va.-based Maritime Security Response Team.
Together, they conducted joint training for counterpiracy and suspected illegal activity interdictions and boardings. The training also included searching vessels for hidden compartments, responding to medical emergencies, and executing and planning missions.
Bradbury said they did not engage any pirates, but the deployment served as a deterrent.
“We definitely showed a presence there, and that presence was felt,” he said. “They know we are out there, and that is a big portion of why the frequency of piracy attacks has dropped so drastically in the last couple of years.”
In 2012, there was a more than 70 percent drop in attempted Somali piracy attacks from the previous year, according to a report released April 9 by Oceans Beyond Piracy, a project of the nonprofit group One Earth Future Foundation.
The team also worked with counterparts from the United Arab Emirates during Iron Siren, a counterpiracy training exercise in the Persian Gulf. Team members showed their UAE partners how to conduct counterpiracy and drug interdictions, Bradbury said.
The team is in the Coast Guard's only MSRT; it fights maritime terrorism and conducts drug interdictions and counterpiracy operations, said Cmdr. Brandon Lechthaler, executive officer for the MSRT.
“We are a Coast Guard team that has the ability to do higher-threat boarding scenarios,” Lechthaler said.
The MSRT also can respond to national security special events, and has provided assistance at the presidential inauguration and the State of the Union address.
The Navy ships on which the team served were assigned to Combined Task Force 151, which works to deter piracy in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Somali Basin, Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, the Coast Guard said.
The Farragut returned home to Mayport, Fla., on April 7, and the Winston S. Churchill returned to Norfolk, Va., on March 28.