Security Reaction Force

Protection at Sea

by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James Lee, All Hands Magazine
28 May 2019

Sailors are called to wear many hats in addition to their primary jobs while serving aboard a ship. All hands are trained to work together to fight fires, others have collateral duties such as financial counselors or fitness leaders. Some Sailors receive specialized training to form a highly trained tactical team known as a “Security Reaction Force” that responds to exceptional threats or attacks to the ship.

The Center for Security Forces (CENSECFOR), Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, trains Sailors with academic curriculum in the classroom and practical hands-on training in the field. This combination develops a Security Reaction Force that is capable of protecting the ship, its mission and crew from acts of terrorism or sabotage.

“We train our Sailors to protect the fleet,” said Chief Sonar Technician Jeremy Sosh, instructor for the Navy's Security Reaction Force - Advanced (SRF-A) course.

“We present them with a lot of stressful situations where they have to respond by identifying a scenario, whether they should shoot or counter the threat with non-lethal weapons, such as [Oleoresin capsicum] spray or batons. Or whether they can deescalate the situation and maintain security without resorting to [an increased use of force],” said Sosh.

According to Sosh, one of the biggest anticipated threats to Sailors at sea are fires; however, he also expressed that Sailors must know how to respond to threats that are less anticipated but just as likely.

“Combat is something that's far removed from a lot of Sailor's minds, so when they come here for this training, we reinforce the fact that situations where they may come under fire or encounter a potential explosive device near them are possible.”

VIRIN: 190528-N-YM856-001

Sosh was stationed on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS O'Kane (DDG-77) where he personally saw Sailors line up to get SRF-A training. He believes it's important for the fleet to push the importance of security forces because it prepares them for a real day-to-day threats.

“This is our home; this is something we have to protect. Once Sailors get to the ship and realize the global threat, whether it be terrorism or active shooters, a vast majority of them become invested in the security of the ship,” said Sosh.

Sosh reported to CENSECFOR Detachment Pearl Harbor after serving four years at sea. He said the most rewarding part of SRF-A training is to see Sailors return from training with a wealth of knowledge that spreads among the ship's crew and training teams to make everyone better.

“One of the things we do to make sure the students understand the gravity of what we're doing here is to show them footage of the USS Mahan attack,” said Sosh. “We present them with real-life scenarios that have happened, and we make sure that they understand that these attacks can happen anywhere. It's their job as the ship's security reaction force to stop the threat.”

Sosh believes that SRF-A training gives Sailors an escape from the daily grind of their regular Navy jobs, such as routine maintenance and uniform inspections. Students embrace the challenge of training even if they realize early on that they don't feel ready.

“I've yet to find a student who went through the training and said to themselves or to us that it wasn't worth it,” said Sosh. “Every single one of them want to come back and go on to the next level of training because of the value it has. It's something new to a lot of them.”
VIRIN: 190528-N-YM856-002

Another great training tool is the force protection ship simulator, according to Sosh. Designed to look like a ship's interior, Sailors conduct room clearing exercises and searches which gives personnel the opportunity to learn their environment and ship layout.

“Knowing these types of skills are important when it comes to defending your ship during any kind of situation -- an active shooter or an explosive that needs taken care of,” said Gunner's Mate Seaman Matthew Naranjo, SRF-A student. “We're going to be the first responders to any type of situation like that. So having people who are knowledgeable about these topics is pretty important when it comes to the defense of the ship.”

The SRF-A classroom portion consists of watching video footage that include responses to active shooter scenarios and discussions on what to learn from them. Students also see first responder footage on college campuses to show students the correct strategic decision in different environments.

“I definitely feel like if I went to the ship now and something were to happen, I wouldn't even hesitate to respond with the knowledge I have after doing this course,” said Naranjo. “I'm definitely a lot more confident in my tactical skills and just being able to assess problems.”

The SRF-A field training uses simunition, a non-lethal ammunition rounds designed to cycle the actions of specially modified weapons, to provide SRF-A students with realistic force-on-force simulation training.

“The added benefit of using simulation rounds is that most of your career in the Navy, You're always shooting at paper,” said Naranjo. “Shooting at a moving target, someone who's actually firing back at you is a lot different.”

Naranjo compares training with simunition to an intense paintball match that incorporates tactical movements in a simulated life-or-death situation.

“Try to take this course because it's definitely something that's very fun and knowledgeable,” said Naranjo. “Essentially, you're just learning to protect your ship, which is the goal of everybody. It should be your main priority as a watchstander. This is definitely something everybody should go to.”

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