join military

Coast Guard in the Desert
Coast Guard in the Desert


May 13, 2004

[Have an opinion on this column? Sound Off on the Coast Guard discussion forum!]

  Email this page to friends

COAST GUARD IN DESERT: HAZMAT Team Insures Safety of Containers for Equipment Going Home
Story and photos by PA1 Matthew Belson

Master CPO Paul Pomroy and Lt. j.g. Dean Horton place safety caps on compressed gas cylinders.

The hot, dusty desert of Kuwait may seem at first a strange environment for the U.S. Coast Guard to operate. For the five members of the Redeployment Assistance Inspection Detachment (RAID), however, it is the ideal location to inspect cargo containers and vehicles being shipped back home during the largest redeployment of troops and equipment since WWII. More than 100,000 soldiers are going home after a year of duty in Iraq as an equal number of replacements arrive. The mission of the RAID is to ensure the containers that are packed and loaded in Iraq and Kuwait are safe to be shipped to the U.S.

"The Coast Guard is assisting the Army in identifying Hazardous Material (HAZMAT) problems," said Lt. j.g. Dean Horton, 34, from Grafton, N.Y., who is normally stationed at Marine Safety Office Hampton Roads and is the officer-in-charge of the five-man detachment. The RAID, which is attached to the Army's 1179th Deployment Support Brigade, is based out of Camp Arifjan where the bulk of the redeployment operation is located. Two members of the detachment which includes Chief Warrant Officer John Simpson, 52, from Ogden, Utah; Master Chief Petty Officer Paul Pomroy, 55, Kauai, Hawaii; Master Chief Petty Officer C. Lee Haynes, 59, from Sneades Ferry, N.C; and Chief Petty Officer Ray Spawn, 56, from Louisville, K.Y., operate out of Camp Doha.

Camp Arifjan is a sprawling place with hundreds of tents and thousands of pieces of equipment that are first cleaned and then transported to the Kuwaiti port of Ash Shuaiba where they are loaded onto ships from the Military Sealift Command.

The months of February, March and April made history because never before has there been such a large redeployment of troops and their equipment in such a short period of time, said Horton.

A typical day for the RAID includes driving around to units and inspecting their Conex boxes-- ideally as equipment is being packed. The goal is to ensure the proper loading of HAZMAT such as acetylene, oxygen, fire extinguishers, batteries, radioactive instruments, fuel, etc, and that each container is properly labeled. For example, oxygen and acetylene cannot be loaded in the same container or stacked next to each other onboard a ship due to the risk of accidental combustion.

"It's really insuring the safety of the mariners involved and the safety of our ports back home," said Horton who explained how proper loading and labeling can reduce the possibility of fires and explosions onboard a ship, and, if there is an incident, how proper labeling and placement of placards can help those fighting a fire to quickly identify the contents in a container. "We are also checking to make sure the containers are blocked and braced so that when the Military Sealift Command vessel starts taking 20-foot swells, the acetylene tanks don't break loose and turn into missiles," Horton added.

During an average week the RAID assists 149 Army units, inspects 435 containers and 259 pieces of rolling stock such as tanks, trucks and armored personnel carriers.
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard's RAID inspect a cargo container for proper labeling of hazardous materials.

"We also educate the movement officers with the correct information and guidance to ensure the equipment is moved as safely as possible," said Horton who admitted that it can be a challenge when Army units want to pack their gear as quickly as possible and return home.

This is the second time a RAID has deployed to the region. The first team arrived last summer and Horton's detachment has been in Kuwait since February.

To better understand how containers were being loaded and sealed by Army customs inspectors, Horton and members from the 1179th Deployment Support Brigade spent two weeks in Iraq with Army units in March.

During one trip into Baghdad, Horton's convoy was attacked with Improvised Explosive Devices and routinely received small arms fire from Iraqi insurgents. Four members of the convoy were wounded. For his efforts helping to secure the perimeter Horton has been recommended by the Army command for a Bronze Star.

"It's a unique experience for the Army to work with the Coast Guard RAID," said Lt. Col. Thomas Connell, 42, from Cranston, R.I., the deputy commander of the 1179th Deployment Support Brigade.

During an average week the RAID assists 149 Army units, inspects 435 containers and 259 pieces of rolling stock such as tanks, trucks and armored personnel carriers.

So close is the relationship between the Coast Guard RAID and the Army that Master Chief Petty Officer Pomroy took over as the Command Sergeant Major for the brigade when the last Sergeant Major rotated home May 2.

"We are looking to have more of our soldiers go through HAZMAT training based on this experience," said Connell.



[Have an opinion on this column? Sound Off on the Coast Guard discussion forum!]

2004. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.



Member Center

FREE Newsletter

Military Report

Equipment Guides

Installation Guides

Military History

© 2018 Military Advantage
A Monster Company.