Story by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda Dunford, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – Exercise Fortune Guard 2014 participants embarked U.S. Navy fleet replenishment oiler, USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187) for the live exercise (LIVEX) at sea, Aug. 6.
The LIVEX showcased U.S. and Asia-Pacific Exercise Rotation (APER) partners’ military, customs/law enforcement identification, seizure and disposition capabilities. Participants were divided into groups to observe various aspects of a ship boarding through live demonstrations and video presentations.
The at-sea portion demonstrated shipboarding identification and interdiction capabilities and further benefit from the real-time incorporation of ships and aircraft as part of the exercise scenario during which a ship of proliferation concerns will undergo a consensual at-sea boarding to inspect suspect cargo.
“This is the demonstration of our visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) portion of the exercise,” said Lt. Cmdr. David Leather, J57 Staff, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM). “We have the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) as well as the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) participate with the boarding demonstration utilizing board teams from their navies and coast guards.”
Exercise participants observed a boarding-at-sea of the Kaiser, which acted as a suspect vessel. JMSDF, ROKN, ROK Coast Guard and U.S. Coast Guard contributed vessels and special operations boarding teams, and Australia provided role players.
The VBSS teams boarded and secured the ship and questioned the Royal Australian Navy role players about the nature of the cargo onboard.
“Boarding of a ship at sea is the last resort in order to stop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) delivery systems or related materials from reaching its end user, there are a lot of things that can be done before this,” said Leather. “But this scenario has is a situation that is dire to get onboard to take a look at the material and determine its safety and where it might be heading.”
Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) Adm. Harry Harris, Jr., said the benefits of the experience gained from these events and working together, further enhance partner nations’ capacity and strengthen resolve to take decisive action to prevent, and when necessary, to stop illicit shipments.
“The world recognizes that the Indo-Asia-Pacific is an increasingly vital part of the globe, where we see the greatest potential for economic growth, and population growth, over the next century,” Harris said. “That is part of the reason the United States is conducting a whole of government rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
“…we are aware of the threats present in this critical part of the world, where we all face the potential for natural and man-made crises, including the threats caused by state, and non-state actors, who attempt to trade in weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “By working together, especially during an exercise like Fortune Guard, we are able to demonstrate, in a public and visible way, that 104 nations of the world are working together to stop proliferation, and we have the capacity necessary to stop the spread of WMD through cooperation fostered by the proliferation security initiative (PSI).”
Fortune Guard 2014 is the first event in the APER series of annual dedicated PSI exercises hosted on a rotating basis by six regional partners in the following order: the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, the Republic of Korea and Japan.
“The new exercise rotation in the Asia-Pacific is a key part of our efforts to make proliferation security initiative, a more durable initiative, as called for by President Obama,” said a White House official attending the event. “PSI is critical to building both resolve and the capacity for nations to act to stop shipments of proliferation concern.”