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Monmouth in two-week-long workout with the US and French

25 April 2017
Terrorist take-down… Royal Marines from HMS Monmouth ‘capture’ a suspect during the first major workout for the frigate east of Suez.

The Black Duke has been Britain’s contribution to the fortnight-long Alligator Dagger 17, linking up with the formidable force that is the US Navy’s PHIBRON 8 (8th Amphibious Squadron) – flagship USS Bataan, assault ship USS Carter Hall, the US Marine Corps’ 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, support ship USS Ponce and France’s 5th Marine Regiment.

The amphibious forces focused on getting ashore and ‘fighting’ their way inland, making use of Djibouti’s live-fire ranges for more authentic training, while Monmouth concerned herself with protecting the task group from air and submarine attack, small boat operations and maritime security operations – known by US forces as vessel board search and seizure (VBSS).

The whole exercise has provided us with a valuable opportunity to maintain our fighting edge

Commander Ian Feasey RN

The Plymouth-based frigate carries a specialist board-and-search team – half Royal Marines from 43 Commando in Faslane, the rest ship’s company, all trained by experts at HMS Raleigh.

With US Marines playing the opposition, Monmouth’s team were expected to track down ‘terrorists’ who had taken over support ship USS Ponce (pronounced pon-say).

The Americans laid on a detailed and complex scenario for the commandos to deal with: the small team had to secure part of a vessel nearly four times larger than their own, then search for contraband such as weapons or illicit drugs. 

“The first real chance for the RN and RM boarding teams to work together was great; we’ve learned a lot and we’re grateful to the guys on the USS Ponce for the work they put into the scenario for us,” said Capt Will Stevens RM, in charge of the green beret detachment aboard Monmouth.

As well as the boarding, HMS Monmouth also made a quick trip to the local garage to grab some fuel – the tanker US Naval Ship Kanawha.

The oiler, similar in size to the UK’s Wave-class ships, can refuel two ships simultaneously, which she did, providing black gold for Monmouth to starboard and the USS Bataan to port. The Kanawha can pump nearly 3½ million litres of fuel every hour from its tanks.

“The whole exercise has provided us with a valuable opportunity to maintain our fighting edge whilst being able to train with some of the nations and ships we will be working with over the coming months,” said the Black Duke’s Commanding Officer Cdr Ian Feasey as Alligator Dagger 17 drew to a close.

Monmouth took part in the exercise having just relieved HMS Daring as the Type 45 destroyer turned for home after a good six months east of Suez.

Daring handed over key equipment and top tips from her experiences policing the Gulf region before receiving a traditional send-off from the Black Duke’s crew as they set their fire hoses to squirt jets of water of appreciation.

With Alligator Dagger over, Monmouth continued eastwards into the Gulf of Aden to conduct counter-piracy patrols with other Allied warships.

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