Saturday, January 17, 2009

USS San Antonio Key to Counter-Piracy Mission

GULF OF ADEN (Jan. 12, 2009) The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) transits the Gulf of Aden. San Antonio is the command ship for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, which conducts counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John K. Hamilton.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SAN ANTONIO, At Sea, Jan. 17, 2009 -- Amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD-17), the flagship for Combined Task Force 151, is serving as an afloat forward staging base(AFSB) during its current counter-piracy mission.

Fulfilling the role of an AFSB is one of the many mission areas the ship was specifically designed to perform.

"We're able to embark and support a wide range of forces and equipment, and as the [executive officer], it is my job to ensure that these embarked units-- just like the crew -- have the resources and support they need to accomplish their assigned tasking," said Lt. Cmdr. Sean Kearns, San Antonio's executive officer.

As an AFSB, the San Antonio brings a robust capability to the theater and task force commanders, and the breadth and depth of embarked forces currently on board San Antonio are a prime example. Those embarked on San Antonio from the Marine Corps are the 3rd platoon of the 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit's (MEU) 'Golf' Infantry Company, a military police detachment, and intelligence personnel.

Others using the ship as an AFSB include an eight-man Coast Guard law enforcement detachment (LEDET) that specializes in maritime interdiction operations, three HH-60H helicopters from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 3 that cross-decked from USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), and members of Fleet Surgical Team 8 who bring a level-two surgical capability to the ship to deal with trauma, surgical, critical care and medical evacuation needs.

"If you take all these forces that have been assembled on board San Antonio, you have an incredible breadth and depth of capabilities, training, and experience, and the synergistic manner in which we all are able to work together on an AFSB ship such as San Antonio acts as a force multiplier and allows us to accomplish much more together than we ever could independently," said Kearns.

The Sailors and Marines of San Antonio have worked hard during the past few weeks to prepare the ship for its role as the flagship and AFSB for CTF 151.

"We have configured several of the ship's spaces so that the equipment and resources available are suited for specific missions that the CTF 151 staff will be planning and executing," said Kearns.

"In addition to material preparations, the ship has been conducting targeted training on the missions and tasks that we may be called upon to perform as part of the CTF 151 anti-piracy mission."

As part of their pre-deployment, unit-level and integrated level training, the crew of San Antonio and the 26 MEU conducted robust training across a wide range of mission areas.

"The mission skills that were developed during this training provide abroad spectrum of capabilities that can be tailored and applied to virtually any mission," said Kearns.

In preparation for CTF 151's anti-piracy mission, San Antonio has focused on its existing capabilities in surface and air warfare, maritime interdiction operations, anti-terrorism and force protection, mobility, intelligence collection and medical and logistical services.

They also conducted additional training to tailor these capabilities to the specific needs of their current anti-piracy tasking.

"The one thing you can't buy is experience, and the greatest asset that each of the units embarked on San Antonio brings to the fight is the robust experience that they have developed through training and operations within their own organizations," said Kearns.

"Each service or organization has its own way of doing business based on the specifics of how they train and the environment in which they operate.

"By bringing such a diverse group of forces together, we are able to capitalize on each other's experiences and training to gain perspectives and insights that allow us to better prepare for future missions. This is the heart of joint warfare, and it is rooted in the camaraderie and military heritage that we all share in the armed forces."

San Antonio, the first ship in its class, is the command ship for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151. The multinational task force conducts counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea and was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.

This marks San Antonio's first deployment.

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Brian Goodwin.)

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