The 14th Coast Guard District is charged with protecting and patrolling more than 90,000 miles of coastline. In fact, of the total 3.4 million square nautical miles of U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, 43 percent resides within this region. With such a large expanse of ocean to operate in, teamwork is critical in performing the many missions of the U.S. Coast Guard. It was this sense of teamwork and partnership that the two units – cutter and station – joined together.
Coast Guard Station Apra Harbor and Coast Guard Cutter Washington recently completed a joint patrol to Rota in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. Washington and the station’s response boat patrolled from Guam to Rota, where they conducted law enforcement operations and worked with local police partners over the course of three days. This operation, which was the first of its kind, successfully tested an innovative concept for supporting station operations from a patrol boat while forward deployed to remote areas in Sector Guam’s area of responsibility.
During the patrol, the crews from both units easily integrated into one team. Teams from the two units conducted joint law enforcement patrols aboard the station’s response boat. Washington lay at anchor outside Rota’s harbor for the majority of this operation, serving as a mobile logistics and command base. When not patrolling, the response boat moored to Washington, proving that this type of response boat can moor both alongside and astern. Station personnel ate, slept and relaxed aboard the ship, just as though they were members of the regular crew.
The two units also worked together to test different logistics arrangements. For example, Washington refueled the response boat, the first time a patrol boat has ever refueled this asset. To accomplish this feat, Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Piano and Fireman Kevin Bland, the response boat’s two engineers, worked with Chief Petty Officer Tony Harris and Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler Bowne, from the cutter, to create an inventive new fueling system. In another instance, Petty Officer 1st Class Warren Murphy, an electrician’s mate, devised a battery-operated navigation light to allow the small boat to save power while moored astern at night. These efforts, along with those of the other Coast Guardsmen involved, helped prove this new concept of operations.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Paul Roberto, a boatswain’s mate and coxswain of the response boat, is a native of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and noted the potential for extending the Coast Guard’s ability to respond with this type of operation.
“Now that we know the concept works, it would be great to do this type of mission again,” he said, adding, “Especially if we know there will be a lot of activity, like during the annual fishing derby.”
Teamwork was key to making this mission a success, but that teamwork went well beyond just Coast Guard members. Police officers from Rota’s Department of Public Safety, the Coast Guard’s primary partner in the Northern Mariana Islands, participated in the law enforcement patrols. The local law enforcement officers taught the Coast Guard teams about the local waterways and also participated in a formal capacity building forum, during which they discussed procedures for conducting search and rescue missions, shared maritime law enforcement practices and learned about the capabilities of each organization’s assets.
“We proved that this type of operation works,” said Lt. Nate MacKenzie, Washington’s commanding officer. “The ability to combine crews in this way is a testament to the Coast Guard’s standardized training, the adaptability of our people and our shared commitment to ensuring mission success.”
Partnering in the Pacific region – whether it was with a fellow unit or an international law enforcement agency – both Station Guam and Washington honed the Coast Guard’s capacity to safeguard the maritime economy, protect the environment, defend our maritime borders and save those in peril.