Aboard USS Boxer -- The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit recently employed its Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF) to complete a Gas and Oil Platform (GOPLAT) interdiction and assault training mission, July 23.
The 15th MEU’s MSPF used lessons learned during a GOPLAT training course, hosted by High Security Solutions International two months earlier, to take over a Gas and Oil platform located off the coast of California.
HSS International brought a lot of experience to this training. Some of the instructors were former MSPF and Force Reconnaissance Marines.
According to Maj. Keith Parry, 15th MEU MSPF commander, the HSS International instructors provided the MSPF with instruction on insert techniques that was invaluable. The overall knowledge that the instructors brought on GOPLAT configurations provided the MSPF with a baseline of information that was needed to then create their own procedures.
To complete the mission, the MEU used many of their assets such as Naval ships, Marine Medium Helicopter squadron 165 (HMM-165), and a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) detachment.
According to Parry, there are always things that a unit can improve upon, but for running a full profile mission from two different ships, the support we received from the Navy was outstanding: the capabilities of the RHIB detachment proved themselves once again on a fairly difficult target, and the actions of the Force Recon platoon and the Security Platoon were outstanding, said Parry.
“The mutual support and cooperation that [the platoons] exhibited between themselves was outstanding, and those factors overall, the blue green team coordination and cooperation and the actions of small unit leaders from the platoons are what made this mission successful,” said Parry.
Throughout the mission, Marines and sailors faced many dangers that are unique to GOPLAT missions.
“The biggest difference between GOPLAT missions and any other missions conducted by MSPF is the threat level,” said Navy Lt. Doug Baker, the Naval Gun Fire Liaison Officer for Battalion Land Team 2/4 and the Operations Executive officer for the 15th MEU’s MSPF.
Baker said there are so many hiding places, and the fact that the floors are made of grating, a Marine is no longer just looking to protect his front and rear, but also above and below himself.
Moreover, they have several levels. “It’s almost like trying to defend a multi-level city block,” said Baker.
“Gas and Oil platforms are such a high value asset to many countries that they make key targets,” said Baker. “They typically are run by civilians with no source of defense, and once taken over by a force, can be very easy to defend.
“The nature of the platform itself can be very dangerous,” said Parry. “On GOPLATs you’re dealing with natural gas and petroleum products, very volatile compounds that you have to take into consideration.”
According to Parry, there are 23 gas and oil platforms off the California coast alone. Due to their isolated nature and sometimes small crews that maintain them, they can be a prime target for terrorism.
According to Parry, most MEUs got away from GOPLAT training for a while and the 15th MEU is the first one, to his knowledge, that is bringing it back since 2002.
“We have the time and we have the talent, so why not do the [GOPLAT] training,” said Col. Brian D. Beaudreault, 15th MEU Commanding Officer.
Beaudreault added that due to the location of GOPLATs, they can serve as great observation points and command and control centers for potential adversaries.
According to Parry, Iraq has two GOPLATs, and in order for Iraq to get back on its feet, it needs to reestablish its ability to produce oil. Part of the Maritime Security Operations (MSO) mission is to provide security for those GOPLATs, therefore, the MEU needs to be ready to support that mission if called upon.
“If anyone were to ever seize those platforms, we would need to be able to get them back in order to assist Iraq with maintaining its oil production capabilities,” said Parry.