Mighty Mo provides training ground for fighting terrorists, smugglers

Mike Pagano
Mike Pagano

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Navy sailors undergo regular training on how to board a vessel at sea and search it for contraband. On Monday, they stormed the Missouri Memorial for their latest exercise on fighting terrorists and smugglers.

Guns are drawn. The action is intense.

"Heads up, heads up, turn around," a sailor said.

Navy personnel donning bullet-proof vests board a vessel suspected of smuggling firearms.

"We have two unknowns in custody," a sailor reported.

This was just a training exercise. The stage -- the Battleship Missouri Memorial.

"Sometimes we'll board another Navy vessel," LTJG Matthew Felton, USS Reuben James, said. "This time we just did Missouri to give us a different opportunity, a ship that we're not familiar with."

About 20 sailors from four ships took part in the drill that's designed to prepare them for real-life search and seizure scenarios.

"Right now, we're seeing a lot of use in Somalia against the pirates," Felton said. "We'll also see it in the Middle East to check against terrorists and smuggling of weapons."

The sailors move tactically throughout the ship, checking every corner, watching each other's back.

"We have two rifles found," a sailor reported.

For safety, the team uses non-lethal firearms.

"The weapons are real, but they've been disabled," Felton said. "Right now, they're just really cool looking clubs pretty much."

The historic Mighty Mo -- now the site of tours and promotion ceremonies -- also serves as a valuable training tool.

"It does mirror some of the commercial ships better than any of the ships they have, so they love using this for that kind of training," Mike Pagano, Battleship Missouri Memorial, said. "We think it's an honor to be able to have the Navy come out here and utilize the ship in this fashion."

Navy officials say they conduct these exercises monthly with about 20 to 50 sailors participating at a time.