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CG Cutter Crew Conducts Oil Spill Exercise

Training. For some people, the word evokes images of classroom time or slideshow presentations. Others may visualize physically demanding on-the-job and in-the-field experiences.

Coast Guardsmen throughout the service are frequently involved in both types of training sessions. The scenarios of these training sessions can be to simulate actual conditions, test a crew’s speed in an emergency response or see how a crew assembles and operates equipment for use. Such exercises are critical to ensure proficiency and teamwork in the event of a disaster.

One crisis that has been the scenario for many Coast Guard exercises is an offshore hazardous material spill. To respond to this sort of emergency, the Coast Guard relies upon the 225-foot Juniper-class seagoing buoy tenders. These ships, including the Charleston, S.C.,-based Coast Guard Cutter Oak, have deployed to past oil spills, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Despite the hope that such a disaster never happens again, crewmembers aboard the Oak conducted a training exercise in Charleston Harbor Wednesday so they’ll have the technical expertise to respond if needed. Oak crewmembers, Coast Guardsmen from the District Response Advisory Team, Sector Charleston and the Gulf Strike Team came together to assemble and operate the Spilled Oil Recovery System.

“This exercise was a great opportunity for everyone involved,” said Lt. j.g. Travis Starsinic, operations officer aboard the Oak. “It allowed experienced personnel to brush up on their skills and our unqualified crewmembers the opportunity to learn in a safe, slow, controlled manner.”

The SORS uses a metal arm that is extended outward, perpendicular to the ship. Inside the arm, an orange boom is placed to help gather the hazardous material, forming a U-shaped section. In the center of the "U" is a skimmer that sits on the surface of the water, sucking in the material and transferring it into a storage unit. This system was designed specifically for use by the 225-foot cutters, such as the Oak, adding to their multi-mission capabilities.

With the help of District, Sector and Strike Team members, the Oak crew successfully assembled the system Wednesday.

“While we hope there is never another incident like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, after today’s exercise, we are confident in our ability to respond to such an event,” said Starsinic.

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