Visit, board, search, and seizure
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Visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) is the term used by the United States military and law enforcement agencies for maritime boarding actions and tactics, designed to capture enemy vessels, to combat terrorism, piracy and smuggling, and to conduct customs, safety and other inspections, as employed by modern navies, marine and maritime services, military and police forces.
United States Navy training begins with non-lethal-weapons (NLW) training and handling including withstanding OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) "pepper spray" and then moves on to Security Reaction Force-Basic (SRF-B), Security Reaction Force-Advanced (SRF-A), and VBSS. The initial training continuum includes three courses lasting a total of eight weeks, with some team members receiving additional follow-on training. Skills taught in the VBSS Close Quarters Battle (CQB) courses include tactical movement and shooting, defensive tactics, rappelling, searching, and other team skills. Some units, known as Helicopter Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (HVBSS) teams have been trained to fast rope aboard vessels from helicopters.
Regular sailors in the Navy are eligible to serve aboard VBSS teams depending on the ship's command structure. The majority of US Naval ships that deploy VBSS teams are smaller ships such as guided missile destroyers, guided missile frigates, etc. VBSS teams are used to combat illegal narcotics and arms trafficking and piracy.
USN VBSS teams are generally armed with Mk 18 or M4 carbines as well as Mossberg 500 shotguns and Beretta M9 pistols. The body armor is generally of the kevlar, law enforcement type with ballistic plate inserts and a buoyant tactical vest that doubles as a life preserver.
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps has several units that conduct VBSS. The premier VBSS force is the ARG/MEU's Maritime Raid Force (MRF), previously known as the Maritime Special Purpose Force. Additionally the various Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams are trained to varying levels of proficiency in VBSS.
The MRF is a sub-unit of the ARG/MEU that is task-organized for each specific mission. However, it typically consists of three platoons: a Force Reconnaissance Platoon as the assault element, an Amphibious Reconnaissance Platoon as the support element, and a Battalion Landing Team infantry platoon as the security element. Together these form the backbone of the MRF and are usually augmented by: Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians, Counter-Intelligence/Human Intelligence, Joint terminal attack controllers, Military information support operators, United States Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments, and Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialists, among others as needed.
The backbone platoons and enablers are then married with the needed support assets for a particular mission, such as USN and USMC aircraft and small boats. Integral to the ARG/MEU construct, and bringing to bear the full range of ARG/MEU capabilities, the MRF is a conventional force that is capable of many 'SOF-like' missions, including opposed VBSS.
United States Coast Guard
The U.S. Coast Guard is another service that commonly responds to VBSS scenarios. Law enforcement boarding teams from cutters and stations are generally armed with SIG P229 pistols, Remington M870P shotguns, and M16 rifles or currently the M-4 SOPMOD, specifically the MK 18. Additionally, the Coast Guard has a number of specialized units within its Deployable Operations Group that have advanced boarding capabilities.
- Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO)
- Maritime Security Operations (MSO)
- Military operations other than war (MOOTW)
- MV Magellan Star (Opposed VBSS by 15th MEU MRF)
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