U.S., Djibouti Forces Train in “Vessel” Simulator

Exercise Cutlass Express 2015 leaders conduct classroom training at the Djiboutian Naval Port Jan. 28, 2015. Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, Cutlass Express is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness and information sharing practices to increase capabilities of East African and Indian Ocean nations to counter sea-based illicit activity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie/Released) Exercise Cutlass Express 2015 leaders conduct classroom training at the Djiboutian Naval Port Exercise Cutlass Express 2015 leaders conduct classroom training at the Djiboutian Naval Port Jan. 28, 2015. Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, Cutlass Express is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness and information sharing practices to increase capabilities of East African and Indian Ocean nations to counter sea-based illicit activity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie/Released)
The Djiboutian coastguard enters the first floor of the vessel-training complex at a Djibouti Coast Guard base during Exercise Cutlass Express 2015, Jan. 29.  Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, Cutlass Express is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness and information sharing practices to increase capabilities of East African and Indian Ocean nations to counter sea-based illicit activity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie/Released) Djiboutian Coastguard enters First Floor Vessel-Training Complex during Exercise Cutlass Express The Djiboutian coastguard enters the first floor of the vessel-training complex at a Djibouti Coast Guard base during Exercise Cutlass Express 2015, Jan. 29. Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, Cutlass Express is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness and information sharing practices to increase capabilities of East African and Indian Ocean nations to counter sea-based illicit activity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie/Released)
U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Adam Hunter, an Exercise Cutlass Express 2015 training team member, demonstrates room-entering techniques for Djiboutian navy and coast guard members during training at the Djiboutian coast guard base training complex Jan. 29, 2015. Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, Cutlass Express is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness and information sharing practices to increase capabilities of East African and Indian Ocean nations to counter sea-based illicit activity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie/Released) Exercise Cutlass Express 2015 Training Team Member demonstrates Room-Entering Techniques for Djiboutian Navy and Coast Guard Members U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Adam Hunter, an Exercise Cutlass Express 2015 training team member, demonstrates room-entering techniques for Djiboutian navy and coast guard members during training at the Djiboutian coast guard base training complex Jan. 29, 2015. Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, Cutlass Express is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness and information sharing practices to increase capabilities of East African and Indian Ocean nations to counter sea-based illicit activity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie/Released)
A Djiboutian coast guard member on the visit, board, search and seizure team, demonstrates room-clearing techniques in the Djiboutian coast guard training complex during Exercise Cutlass Express 2015, Jan. 28. Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, Cutlass Express is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness and information sharing practices to increase capabilities of East African and Indian Ocean nations to counter sea-based illicit activity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie/Released) Member on Visit, Board, Search and Seizure Team demonstrates Room-Clearing Techniques in Djiboutian Coast Guard Training Complex A Djiboutian coast guard member on the visit, board, search and seizure team, demonstrates room-clearing techniques in the Djiboutian coast guard training complex during Exercise Cutlass Express 2015, Jan. 28. Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, Cutlass Express is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness and information sharing practices to increase capabilities of East African and Indian Ocean nations to counter sea-based illicit activity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie/Released)

Training is the key to successfully completing any task or mission that may be assigned to you at a moment’s notice. Life-changing, event-altering decisions will come down to the training you have received and the experience you have gained.

U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Enforcement Specialists along with U.S. Navy Visit, Board, Search and Seizure Specialists from Naval Forces Africa partnered with the Djiboutian navy and coast guard to provide the first stage of Cutlass Express ’15 with classroom instruction and at the simulated VBSS Vessel-Training Complex onboard the Djibouti coast guard base, Jan 29, 2015.

“Training in the Djiboutian coast guard simulator allows us to practice tactics in a controlled environment, without the dangers of a maritime environment,” said Chief Petty Officer Charles Johnson, Cutlass Express training team lead. “They gain the ability to have a tactical mindset when on the water to respond to any threats they might encounter when doing a boarding.”

The training complex is a four-story structure built of shipping containers that have been modified to resemble a vessel or ship that one may confront on the open water. This “vessel” includes hatches, ladders, holes and dim lighting to simulate the best environment possible for training.

“Being able to use a training facility like this allows a more realistic training platform for the Coast Guard when practicing close quarter combat, vessel boarding, or any other tactics that they might be looking to improve in a safe environment,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Hunter, U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Enforcement Specialist. “So we are teaching them how to basically do a basic strong-wall technique allowing them to move through the vessel in as safe a manner as possible.”

According to Hunter, instruction included a close quarter combat version of a boarding used for more high-risk scenarios with unknown personnel, possible weapons and other potential threats onboard. He explained that when first practicing those techniques, the environment where it is rehearsed is vital to a safe and effective outcome.

“Training in a controlled environment gives trainees a stable platform in a ‘stale’ environment: Stale, meaning there is no furniture involved so there are less tripping hazards,” Hunter said. “It allows us to get more repetitions of each of the training scenarios that we are going to do; puts them in a safe environment and, we don’t have to worry as much about the environmental effect as we would if we were actually onboard a vessel.”

Although the VBSS Training-Complex instruction lasted one day, the forged partnerships will be taken from the training complex to the water in real-life situations, providing a more effective team.

“I would say the biggest thing I hope trainees take away is how to work together, keeping a tactical mindset when out of the water and remembering that anything could possibly happen when doing boardings,” Johnson said. “The training has been very beneficial for both the Djiboutian navy and the coast guard. They are learning to be more in sync and to work better together.”

Overall, this experience for the U.S. and Djiboutian forces will continue to build the partnerships between the two nation’s forces making the team more effective when the mission calls.

“Once you learn these techniques, it’s the same ship. It’s the same house; you just look into different sizes and one is moving and one isn’t,” concluded Hunter.

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Training Exercise Cutlass Express

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