By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Woody Paschall, Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) Middle East Training Team (METT) embarked USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) (BHR) and BHR Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) ships June 8-11 to enhance the ESG’s humanitarian assistance and search and rescue (SAR) capabilities through training and cooperation.
During the embark, they trained BHR’s Operations Department to use streamlined search procedures and additional search patterns based on weather conditions, including current, visibility and wave height.
“Judging by the responses from the crew, they seemed confident and appreciative of the training we could give,” said USCG Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Scott Titilah, a METT member.
Titilah said while Navy operations specialists are trained to conduct SAR operations, the Coast Guard practices SAR abilities daily to maintain high proficiency.
“The Navy does the same things we do. We just do it more often,” said Titilah. “Very junior Coast Guardsmen are going to be taking calls for assistance, launching rescue operations and prosecuting SAR cases as part of small boat crews. Because we start with junior people, we streamlined the process to make it easier for them to walk in and start taking action.”
The Coast Guardsmen provided the Sailors with different and new ways of conducting their missions.
“For instance, we gave BHR Sailors a few of the check sheets we use during our missions that might help them think about some of the different aspects of their missions or approach a situation differently,” said USCG Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Nancylee Greiner.
The regularity with which the Coast Guard performs SAR enabled them to pass along skills and experiences Navy SAR teams aren’t exposed to on a consistent basis.
“They covered the [different] types of recoveries and recovery patterns, and other considerations to take such as weather, sea states and currents,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class (SW) Randolph Rivera. “It was refresher training for me, because if you don’t do SAR often, you need to practice to maintain your proficiency. The training keeps the procedures in the back of your mind in case you ever need it.”
The Coast Guard METT also taught advanced boarding tactics to USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and USS Denver (LPD 9), another mission that has long been one of the Coast Guard’s primary concerns.
“We’ve been doing boardings for 200 years,” said Titilah. “The things we’ve learned during that time translate directly to the missions the Navy is doing now.”
Two centuries of honing those skills allowed them to put a sharper edge on the ships’ visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams.
“We had a really great law enforcement training session with Rushmore and Denver,” said USCG Machinery Technician 1st Class Dan Morales, a METT member. “We worked with the ships’ VBSS teams, training them for compliant and noncompliant boardings.”
The teamwork between the Navy and Coast Guard, coupled with the sea services’ enduring presence in the Persian Gulf, helps ensure security and safety of the maritime environment for those who use it.
“We gave them a few more tools in their tool box,” said Greiner. “If they are faced with a situation, they know how the Coast Guard would approach it, and they can use that point of view if it will work better under the circumstances.”
The BHRESG consists of Amphibious Squadron 7, BHR, Denver, Rushmore, USS Milius (DDG 69), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and USS Chosin (CG 65).
BHRESG is conducting maritime operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. Maritime operations help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment and complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts in regional nations’ littoral waters. Coalition forces also conduct maritime operations under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that commercial shipping and fishing can occur safely in the region.