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Sailors navigate Airmen through joint boating course

By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal | Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs | Oct. 2, 2018

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —

From taxiing to takeoff, mobility Airmen are trained to operate at heights more than 40,000 feet above sea level … but few have trained out at sea. A harbor patrol course tested five Airmen’s sea legs Sept. 24 through Oct. 3, as they took to the classroom and Charleston’s waterways to apply newly learned skills.

Thanks to the joint mission, Airmen have a unique opportunity to familiarize themselves with Navy skills in the form of the Shore Installation Management Basic Boat Coxswain Course. The SIMBBCC curriculum covers techniques including man overboard drills, pier approaches, towing and anchoring.

The SIMBBCC is taught by U.S. Navy instructors at Joint Base Charleston’s Naval Weapons Station. Although there is a classroom portion of the training, these instructors ensure that students are able to receive hands-on training in a field environment.

“The course is a crawl, walk, run course,” said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Bryan Mead, Naval Support Activity, 628th Security Forces SIMBBCC instructor. “We start off slow. As we teach them you eventually see a light turn on. One boat might feel like a Cadillac, another a Corvette. They learn to adapt to their equipment. You need the know-how and the rules of the road when operating a vessel.”   

Airmen of the 628th SFS are responsible for protecting the sea lanes around the joint installation. From driving a small boat to retrieving someone from the water, being able to execute learned techniques is required for qualification.

“We have roughly 22 miles of coastline that needs to be patrolled,” said Senior Airman Courtland Theobald, 628th SFS installation patrolman. “This broadened my skillset so I can work with the Navy doing harbor patrol. We have amazing instructors who teach us basic and advanced principles to efficiently do our job. Their training has been exceptional.”

Airmen may have to use SIMBBCC principles and techniques in a real world situation. Theobald said that the joint training has built up his confidence to execute the mission.

“There is a lot more to harbor patrol than I initially expected,” said Theobald. “It’s been like a fire hydrant of knowledge. There is pride that goes with not only fulfilling your job, but also learning from our Navy counterparts. It has broadened my skillset and has given me another perspective.”

However, U.S. Air Force students aren’t the only ones who have gained insight and professional development during this training.

“I might not be able to do something like this again in my career,” said Mead. “Who else in the fleet can say that they were able to teach civilians and Airmen? We’re in different branches but we train the same.”

Although there might be differences in how the Air Force and Navy operate, Mead conducts his training based on mutual respect. His instruction methods all lead toward a recurring goal during each class iteration.

“We’re all in this together. In this course, we share our knowledge with everybody,” said Mead. “I want Airmen like Senior Airman Theobald to be a better boat driver than I could ever be. I need to deliver that to them.”

The SIMBBCC is one example of how JB Charleston service members are enhancing mobility partnerships and working side-by-side as a joint team. This joint training serves as an investment in expanding Mobility Air Force capabilities and increasing readiness.

"The Joint Base Charleston Security Forces Squadron is a fully integrated unit consisting of Airmen, Sailors, and Department of the Air Force Civilian Police Officers, all known as Defenders. We have the honor and responsibility to protect air, land and sea assets,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Speck, 628th SFS commander. “One of our most unique mission sets is the Harbor Patrol Unit ... unique in both the critical Navy mission it protects and the fact the HPU has Airmen, active duty and DAF, working side-by-side with their Navy Defenders patrolling Joint Base Charleston waterways."