By Journalist Seaman Apprentice S.C. Irwin, Public Affairs Center San Diego
USS Duluth (LPD 6) was presented with the Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation during an awards ceremony on the ship's flight deck February 27.
The award, comparable to the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, is granted to a unit of the Coast Guard for valorous or meritorious achievement, or for service by another branch of the military in support of Coast Guard operations. Duluth and her crew were awarded the honor for supporting Coast Guard Port Security Unit
s (PSU) during Operation Iraqi Freedom from March to May 2003.
The Deputy Commander for the Coast Guard’s Mobilization and Reserve Component in the Pacific, Rear Adm. Mary P. O’Donnell, presented Duluth’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Charles G. Emmert, with the green, blue and white pennant during the ceremony.
“My crew and I are very honored to receive this award," Emmert said. "It makes me proud to see that our efforts haven’t gone unnoticed."
During Duluth’s deployment last year to support the wartime mission, the ship aided Coast Guard Port Security Unit 311 of San Pedro, Calif., and Port Security Unit 313 of Tacoma, Wash., after the PSUs relieved U.S. Marines of the responsibility for security at two Iraqi Gas Oil Platforms, or GOPLATS, in the Persian Gulf.
PSU 311 and PSU 313 are deployable units mainly comprised of active-duty and Reserve members who are trained in specialized combat, weapons and boat skills. They are sent around the world to support military missions during both wartime and peacetime. The Coast Guardsmen provided security at the GOPLATS with the use of four 110-foot patrol boats, a 378-foot high-endurance cutter, a 225-foot buoy tender, two law enforcement detachments and a harbor defense command unit. Approximately 240 Guardsmen and women were assigned the mission of security of the GOPLATS.
Duluth and its complement of more than 400 Sailors were responsible for repairing power sources on each oil platform and repairing mobile command and control communications systems while positioned more than 50 miles from the nearest coastal support. They also provided medical and dental care, meals, laundry service, email and phone access, and extra beds for the Coast Guard crew members.
“I am incredibly proud to be here today. The word for the future of the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force is ‘joint.' No one branch can accomplish the mission alone,” O’Donnell said about the growing collaboration between the Coast Guard and all branches of the military.
Duluth’s award came just after an agreement between the Navy and Coast Guard to share training, fleet and coastal experience between each branch of service. This agreement will provide Sailors and Coast Guardsmen with better professional training
, and certify Sailors for certain types of Merchant Marine duty.
“I first worked with the Navy in 1996, but we rarely worked as colleagues. Now, the Navy and Coast Guard are changing and moving into the right direction. We’ve come a long way by learning how to work together,” said O’Donnell.
Duluth Sailors exhibited an unselfish duty toward their coastal brothers and sisters. A number of Duluth’s crew went above and beyond the normal call of duty to relieve PSU members of watchstanding duties on the GOPLATS. This teamwork allowed the Coast Guard units to effectively patrol Iraqi waters and conduct rescue missions if needed.
O’Donnell said because of the Navy’s continued support in the past, the Coast Guard has been able to conduct its mission involving search and rescue. She added that the American public benefits most, because the Navy and Coast Guard can maximize and consolidate their assets, leading to more efficient work by each service.
The Navy and Coast Guard are continuously working to build a more capable organization. And, although the ceremony recognizing the ship for its mission support has passed, Duluth has established new standards of teamwork, while continuing to set the example for other Navy ships. Looking ahead, Duluth continues a mission of building the mutual respect between the Navy and its Coast Guard counterparts.