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Naval training to keep the world’s most important waterways open, safe

CBS 8 trained in a simulator with sailors who will soon be faced with the task of making split second decisions to protect dangerous seas.

VIRGINIA, USA — We saw during the pandemic what can happen when there are supply chain issues, but what you might not realize is that even when we're not in a pandemic, our military is on high alert to keep important shipping lanes safe. 

The Navy invited CBS 8 to its base in Norfolk, Virginia to train in a simulator with sailors who will soon be faced with the task of making split second decisions to protect dangerous seas.

With machine guns in hand, they ride on speeding boats to prevent terrorists and pirates to initiate attacks that could cripple the world's economy by shutting down important waterways - especially in the Middle East.

We spent the day men and women learning with it takes to become a master at arms. 

Bowen Rieck is a sailor training to be a security specialist. Rieck, who leaves for Bahrain in March, says you have to keep your head on a swivel – looking for muzzle flash on the back of boats. 

He showed us how to fire an M-240, a fully automatic machine gun. It can fire hundreds of rounds a minute. Firing the gun is easy, but knowing when to fire is something completely different. 

“It's hard sometimes, but it all comes down to training and being... you gotta be self-aware,” Rieck said.

One mistake could cost you and your fellow sailors their lives, accidentally kill innocent civilians, or allow terrorists to strike their target so these sailors undergo months of training to make split second decisions. 

“It helps us with our decision making process to make sure that we identify what a threat is - for a hostile actor and somebody that's just curious about what we're doing,” said Chief Petty Officer Alexander Victor.

Bowen added, “It helps a lot. It helps me get confident with radios, helps me get comfortable with communication, helps me know what I'm going to actually do when I get to Bahrain.”

Since threats never take a break, the job of master at arms is demanding, complex and, at times, very dangerous, but it can also be extremely rewarding knowing you're saving lives. “I love it,” Bowen said. “It gives you a sense of purpose and sense of feeling that - wow - I'm doing something not a lot of people get to do and I love it.”

In our next, and final, Sailor for a Day story we undergo what was definitely our toughest task - water survival training. How to increase your chances of making it out alive if an aircraft crashes in water.

WATCH RELATED: Hometown Heroes: Life on a submarine (Feb. 2023).


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