SAN DIEGO (NNS) — The amphibious assault ship USS America successfully completed a force protection exercise (FPEX), May 18 – one of the final certifications needed before deploying.
FPEX evaluates a crew’s ability to defend the ship from various challenges while in port. America’s scenario during the exercise involved Sailors from the ship and various commands along the Naval Base San Diego waterfront posing as hostile rioters stirring up trouble at the pier entry control point (ECP).
“The ships have to be able to protect themselves, whether it’s terrorist or non-terrorist activity, such as protests,” said Senior Chief Master-at-Arms Savario Polito, security leading chief petty officer aboard America. “We just need to make sure our watchstanders are prepared and equipped to handle any possible situation that may arise while we’re in port.”
A group of nearly 30 rioting actors congregated at the pier ECP, yelling and imposing their will. Each one was in costume, and some were decorated with fake wounds that bled fake blood. They’re objective was to remain in character and provide as much of a genuine performance as possible to make it difficult for the armed sentry to predict their moves.
“It was interesting being on the other side,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Adrian Garth, one of the rioting actors assigned to America. “People from different countries have their own ways of protesting and responding to opposition. This experience has been eye-opening and has helped be realize the importance of the different levels of defense we have for our ship.”
The exercise was the culmination of a training process that began even before America was commissioned. While under construction in Pascagoula, Mississippi, the crew ran multiple drills every day, which enhanced each watchstander’s skills, training them for this moment.
“I think America did extremely well. Their response was appropriate,” said Polito. “The reaction force moved well all the way down the pier. They were shooting and moving just like my security force instructors have taught them. I think it was a great learning experience having weapons that they could actually shoot, IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that actually go off – it adds a real sense of realism to the exercise – so that when bad things like this do happen, they’re a little bit better prepared for it.”
The America Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) is commanded by Commander, Amphibious Squadron 3 and consists of the America, San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22), and Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) and more than 1,800 Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The ARG/MEU is scheduled to deploy later this summer.
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For more news from USS America (LHA 6), visit www.navy.mil/local/lha6/.