Courtesy of Surface SITREP, published by the Surface Navy Association (www.navysna.org).
Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, USN-Ret.: Tell me about the Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 50/ Commander Task Force (CTF) 55 mission; what you have to do the mission, and what your challenges and opportunities are.
Capt. Pete Mirisola, USN, Deputy Commander, Destroyer Squadron 50/Commander Task Force 55: What we do at Task Force 55 is conduct maritime security operations in the region to promote security and stability, working hand-in-hand with our GCC partners and other allied navies that deploy forces to the area, through the whole spectrum of maritime operation. Maritime security operations is a large umbrella, so it helps to break it down in some of its component parts, including maritime interception operations; visit, board, search and seizure operations; general maritime security and presence operations, and conducting approach and assist visits to friendly vessels that are in the area.
Our permanent forces are the 10 Cyclone-class coastal patrol ships (PCs) and six Coast Guard Island-class patrol boats (WPBs). Those are the 16 ships permanently assigned here to Bahrain, to conduct maritime security operations.
What do we see and learn from those visits?
We learn quite a bit, particularly within the Arabian Gulf, when we visit the fishing or small cargo dhows. There’s definitely a strong gray market for commodities and goods in the region. There is low level maritime crime that happens from time to time where the fishermen are in and around their own territorial waters and those that border other countries. We also get information on some of the illicit trafficking that goes on in the region.
Are they forthcoming?
They are. I would say most of our interactions with the fishing fleet and the dhow traffic is very professional and friendly. And we provide them any information on weather that we may have, as professional mariners in exchanging information.
What forces do you have to do your job?
Our permanent forces are the 10 Cyclone-class coastal patrol ships (PCs) and six Coast Guard Island-class patrol boats (WPBs). Those are the 16 ships permanently assigned here to Bahrain, to conduct maritime security operations. We also get any independent deploying cruisers and destroyers that come from CONUS. Right now we have two. So that is a total of 18 ships and our current force personnel numbers are just over 1,200.
That includes the ships plus the Coast Guard staff at Patrol Forces Southwest Asia as a subordinate task group, Task Group 55.1, and it also includes the Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT), Advanced Interdiction Teams (AIT), and Maritime Engagement Team (MET) team.
So there’s an important Coast Guard presence here.
The MSRT is a group of Coast Guardsmen that are professional boarding officers, with all of their law enforcement authorities, who are capable of conducting visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) operations up to opposed boardings. They can conduct surface infiltration and extraction, via hooking and climbing ladders, but they are also FAST Rope capable out of a helicopter, so they can do vertical insertion and extraction. So it’s a very high-end capability that we have here in theater at the Fleet Commander’s disposal.