VALETTA, Malta — Members of the U.S. and Maltese military conducted joint training aboard USS Barry (DDG 52) Jan. 6 focusing on visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) tactics.
During the training session, the teams exchanged information and experiences then displayed differences in their techniques.
"The training today has been quite good," said Armed Forces Malta Lance-Bombardier Jonathan Stone, leader of the Maltese VBSS team. "We mainly use the same techniques, but we always learn new things, we reinforce our friendships here and the training is always changing."
According to Stone, who has been boarding vessels with the team for seven years, illegal migration is a large problem for the small island nation of Malta. In 2008, more than 2,000 illegal immigrants migrated to Malta, many of them making their way to the island by way of small boats about the size of a U.S. Navy rigid hull inflatable boat.
"In the summer, we see 60 to 70 illegal immigrants a day," said Stone. "Sometimes there will be 28 or 30 of them on a very small boat. It's always a rescue operation for us in that instance because there is a very large chance of a small boat like that capsizing."
Barry's Force Protection Training Team hosted the joint session, providing the training equipment - blue and red rubber weapons meant to simulate weapons normally used during boardings - and began the training by talking about safety procedures and demonstrating U.S. procedures to board and search a vessel.
"It's great to see how other countries operate and give the guys exposure to different techniques and ideas," said U.S. Navy Lt. Grant Yeatman, who led the training. "I think it's good for international relations, and it shows us that we have common goals, that we're fighting the same fight and that if we see each other on the water, that we have a friend out there."
In addition to training with USS Barry sailors in VBSS, members of Armed Forces Malta have also trained aboard U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas (WHEC 716), USS Nassau (LHA 4) during Exercise Phoenix Express 2008, and have trained with U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy SEALS.
USS Barry is in Malta commemorating the 100th anniversary of the "Great White Fleet," a historic U.S. Navy goodwill voyage around the world that included a stop in Malta in 1909.
Sailors aboard the ship will participate in five community relations events throughout the area, and a reception hosted by U.S. Amb. to Malta Molly Bordonaro and Navy Rear Adm. Joe Leidig, U.S. Sixth Fleet deputy commander, will be held aboard the ship.