JOHN C STENNIS SPACE CENTER, MS – A group of 20 foreign officers from four different countries became the first graduates of the Strategic Level Small Craft Combating Terrorism course (SLSCCbT) offered by the U.S. Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School (NAVSCIATTS) during a ceremony in New Orleans July 15.
U.S. Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School launched the new four-week course after receiving a request to do so from the Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP), Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD)/Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD), Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict and Interdependent Capabilities (SO/LIC&IC), and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), according to Cmdr. Scott Lyons, NAVSCIATTS executive officer.
“In addition to giving students an opportunity to participate, exchange ideas and experiences, and otherwise collaborate with officers from other regional and non-regional partner nations, this training is also specifically designed to foster a respect for human rights and to build professional esteem for these officers and prestige for their organizations,” said Lyons. “By developing a robust group of trained officers, the capacity for partners to sustain and build upon shared experiences increases.”
According to its mission statement, NAVSCIATTS exists in order to conduct Foreign Internal Defense (FID) using a variety of in-resident and mobile training teams. The SLSCCbT training is part of a larger Security Force Assistance (SFA) program that builds relationships and enhances a military network among partner nations.
“Most people have no idea what either FID or SFA mean and are somewhat surprised to hear that we are training foreign military personnel inside U.S. borders,” said Lyons. “FID and SFA are simply two sides of a larger strategy in which America helps our partners around the globe to help themselves. It also makes perfect sense to be doing this kind of training here and now as our
relationships with partner nations must include improving regional and cultural expertise through expanded training, education, and exchange initiatives.
“The defense of America and all other partner countries against common threats to security, whether civil conflict, social instability, humanitarian crises, arms, drugs, human trafficking, territorial disputes, piracy, or terrorism, is best achieved through improved cooperation, strong coalitions, and regional partnerships that provide for our collective security, Lyons continued.
“Such training and relationship building begins with programs exemplified by NAVSCIATTS and this is also an important part of the Navy’s phase zero maritime strategy – meaning NAVSCIATTS is one of the places where such important relationship building can begin,” he said.
A perfect example of this strategy in action, according to Lyons, is the fact that at least two former NAVSCIATTS’ students have gone on to lead naval operations in their own countries.
“NAVSCIATTS has been conducting maritime training since 1983 as part of an evolving and cohesive strategy for developing partner nation maritime capabilities that includes engagement with the Department of State, United States embassies, and their military advisory and assistance groups abroad,” he said, and also notes that more than 7,000 students from about 70 countries have been trained by the school to date.
“All of the other courses that NAVSCIATTS offers focus on the operations and maintenance of patrol craft. For example, things like small engine repair and hull maintenance, communications, weapons maintenance, human rights and instructor development,” said NAVSCIATTS Operations Officer Leif Cairns. “These are all technical and professional development courses. However, with this new class, we are teaching at the strategic level and we expect these officers to be able to return to their countries to support the design, implementation, and structuring – or potential restructuring – of their small craft maritime combating terrorism forces.
As such, we are working to design an enhanced training environment for these officers which fosters a better understanding of American culture, human rights, and what it means to live and work in a diverse, multi-cultural environment,” Cairns said.
As part of their training experience, the visiting officers were also treated to a tour of the NAVSCIATTS training facilities; a hostage rescue demonstration provided by U.S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen assigned to Special Boat Team 22, which is also located at Stennis Space Center; a three-day trip to San Diego to meet with the commander and staff of Special Boat Team 12 (SBT-12), including a firsthand introduction to the Naval Special Warfare 11-meter Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RIB); and, an opportunity to see a few local tourist sites to include a visit to the USS Midway.
Asked to summarize his NAVSCIATTS’ training experience as well as his time in America, Maj. Julius Olweny Okello Lango, a visiting officer from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, emphasized the importance of what he had seen and learned.
“We were very impressed by the skill and professionalism of the boat operators. This is exactly the kind of training and skill we need to develop back in my home country to enhance our own safety and security,” said Lango. “My country was torn by war for many years but now we are experiencing a period of peace thanks to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. We are trying to build a strong democracy, and that is why we want to partner and build a friendship with America.
“I can see that it took a lot of hard work for the American people to build a society in which everybody is equal, and the message I will take back to my people is that we must also work hard together so that we can build a nation such as you have here,” Longo continued.
Such sentiment is well received by NAVSCIATTS leadership and staff as this reaction is precisely what the course is designed to achieve.
“Building relationships is the single most important thing we do here at NAVSCIATTS,” said Lyons. “Once we have built strong friendships and developed a special level of trust, we can better accomplish our mission because they will know that we are here for them long-term and are serious about helping them build their own maritime defense capabilities.”