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Published:January 10th, 2007 05:05 EST

Navy unit protects Iraq's oil terminals

By SOP newswire


OCEAN SIX, At Sea " Commander Task Force 158 held a Boarding Officer Training Conference Jan. 5 aboard Ocean Six, the Navy`s afloat forward operating base currently stationed in the North Arabian Gulf in support of maritime security operations.

The conference, which was composed of CTF 158 boarding team members from USS Howard (DDG 83), USS Chinook (PC 9), USS Whirlwind (PC 11), USCGC Maui (WPB 1307), USCGC Monomoy (WPH 1326) and HMAS Warramunga, FFG 152 participated in the conference, the goal of which was to ensure continued success with boardings to help set the conditions for security and stability in the region.

We want every vessel we board to understand that the main reason we`re here in the NAG is to protect Iraq`s oil terminals, " said Commander Task Group 158.1, Capt. Chris Noble. The primary mission of CTG 158.1 is to deliver twenty-four hour protection to Iraq`s oil terminals, Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT) and Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT). If those assets are protected, it`s the Iraqi people who will ultimately benefit. "

Every week the boarding teams, comprised of both Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, traverse the North Arabian Gulf, gauging the pulse of what`s going on around the exclusion zones surrounding the oil terminals. As part of maritime security operations, the boarding teams meet and establish rapport with fishermen while simultaneously ensuring they understand the coalition`s presence in the NAG is intended to help Iraq become a self-sufficient nation. Maritime security operations protect Iraq`s sea-based infrastructure, which provides the Iraqi people the opportunity for self-determination.

The patrols help to detect, deter and intercept any vessels in Iraq`s waters suspected of undertaking illegal activities. The result is a more secure and stable environment in the North Arabian Gulf, which encourages maritime trade and contributes to Iraq`s development.

Before beginning patrols, the boarding teams role play different scenarios they may encounter and even learn Arabic phrases, which have proven useful in establishing relationships. The teams also said preparations of this type are as important to mission accomplishment as ensuring their boats are equipped with maps and navigational aids.

Ensign Lisa T. Green, who participates in many of the CTG 158.1 boardings, said small courtesies extended to the local fishermen help establish rapport. Boarding teams often give small gifts to the fishermen, such as warm gloves and water bottles, and they are always very respectful of the hard-working fishermen.

You`ll notice that the boarding team won`t just board a dhow, " Green said. They will request permission to board, shake hands with the dhow master and even remove their sunglasses when speaking. "

Green said good rapport with the mariners allows boarding teams to quickly assess the legitimacy of vessels, thereby ensuring the CTG 158.1 mission is not impeded. 

By Lt. Karen E. Eifert
5th Fleet Public Affairs Office