JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. —
Airmen from the 633rd Security Forces Squadron participated in maritime boat patrol training at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, Aug. 13-17, 2018.
Instructors from the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators conducted the week-long Boat Operations and Training course to qualify participants to the national standard of maritime interoperability.
Throughout the week, students split time between learning in a classroom and on a vessel. The dual environments allowed students to grasp the concepts of basic principles and then implement the techniques to strengthen those maritime operation skills.
“A lot of the Airmen in this class have zero boating experience,” said retired U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Maurice “Mo” Etiemble, NASBLA boat instructor. “Human error is the overwhelming majority cause for most boating accidents, so our main focus is risk assessment and trying to mitigate it by raising awareness.”
In a partnership with the USCG, NASBLA instructors travel the nation to local, state and federal agencies, to teach an incident command system that facilitates a cohesive response amongst multiple agencies during emergencies. BOAT course participants will now have the knowledge to operate with local Chesapeake Bay agencies to coordinate response tactics under universal procedures.
“I think it’s extremely important for us to be trained to the national standard,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Olivia Gilbert, 633rd SFS installation entry controller. “Think about it, we get hit with hurricanes here. If the bay gets hit hard, there will be a lot of stuff going on, but we will be prepared to jump in and work with (other agencies). We know the rules and we know what they will need from us.”
Once out on the vessels, it was up to the students to execute procedures such as docking the boats, using the proper knots to secure them, mapping water navigation points and performing boat maneuvering skills during rescue scenarios.
“Enforcement officers are proficient with weapons, and drawing a weapon from a holster becomes muscle memory so we drew that parallel to boat operations,” Etiemble said. “We began distracting the students with questions while they were performing tasks to show the benefit of being able to do something second-nature. Much like drawing their weapon, these tasks also require continuous practice and training.”
The course concluded with a final test in which each student was required to properly perform all of the newly learned vessel operations tasks. Now armed with the skills to engage in interoperability response, the SFS members will begin routine boat patrol duty.
“This course helped me see what it really takes to secure our base,” Gilbert said. “We’re not just gate guards, we’re not just patrolling the flight line and housing. The course really showed us what we are protecting and how important it is to be up to standard on those protective procedures.”