Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernández participates in gunnery exercise for Tradewinds 2016

A crew member from the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez shoots the .50 cal machine gun during a joint gunnery exercise in the Caribbean Sea, June 9, 2016 during Tradewinds 2016. Tradewinds 2016 is a joint combined exercise conducted in conjunction with partner nations to enhance the collective abilities of defense forces and constabularies to counter transnational organized crime and to conduct humanitarian/disaster relief operations. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake

A crew member from the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez shoots the .50 cal machine gun during a joint gunnery exercise in the Caribbean Sea, June 9, 2016 during Tradewinds 2016. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada – The Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernández participated in a joint gunnery exercise June 9, 2016 off the coast of St. George’s, Grenada, during Exercise Tradewinds 2016.

Assets from Canada, France, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and the United States participated in the joint gunnery exercise, which trains ship crews in the delivery of weapons fire from .50 caliber machine guns and 20MM auto-cannons.  Each of the nations participating in Tradewinds operates one or both of these weapon systems.

“Joint exercises such as this allow us to cross-train and share best practices between nations in gunnery exercise planning, maneuvers, command and control and firing techniques,” said Coast Guard Lt. Charles Bare, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernández.

The HMCS Shawinigan from Canada was the controlling vessel, and was responsible for organization, maneuvering and target deployment.  All participating vessels formed a column at a set course and speed in the designated exercise area, and the HMCS Shawinigan deployed a remote control target drone off the beam of the first vessel in the column.  Once all vessels reported the area clear in the exercise area, by both radar and visual, HMCS Shawinigan declared the range “green,” and the lead vessel engaged the target drone with its weapons system.  Once firing was complete, the lead vessel moved to the rear of the column and the next vessel moved up to repeat the cycle.

Bare said the training was extremely beneficial to the crew of the cutter.

“It is important for us to remain proficient in operating our gun mounts due to the ever-present threat of terrorism and dangers associated with illicit trafficking in the Caribbean,” said Bare.  “While deploying weapons fire from large caliber deck machine guns and cannons is something we hope to never have to do, it is something we need to be good at to protect our cutter, cutter boat and deployed boarding teams.  Exercises such as this give us the chance to improve our own procedures while passing information along to each other.  It also allows us to manage expectations and better operate offshore as a team in the Caribbean region. The sailors and ship operators participating in this year’s Tradewinds are true professionals, and we’re fortunate to have each other in the joint fight against illicit trafficking in the region,” he said.

Exercise Tradewinds is a three-phased, combined and joint exercise that improves regional security and builds military relations among partner nations that supports the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, a U.S. Department of State regional security partnership.

Phase I and II are designed to conduct joint, interagency capacity building exercises for participating nations, which focus on increasing regional cooperation in complex, multinational security operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.

The Heriberto Hernández is the fourteenth Fast Response Cutter to be commissioned in the Coast Guard, and the second to be homeported in Puerto Rico.

FRCs are designed to conduct maritime drug interdiction, alien migrant interdiction, search and rescue, national defense, homeland security, living marine resource protection and other Coast Guard missions. This class of patrol boat is capable of deploying independently to execute Coast Guard missions and prevent potential threats from approaching our shores.  It offers vastly improved capabilities over the aging 110-foot Island class patrol boats it replaces. The FRC is part of the Coast Guard’s layered approach to maritime security that includes the National Security Cutter and the future Offshore Patrol Cutter.

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