Coast Guard, Navy promote overseas unity through mutual goodwill

KEMAMAN, Malaysia – A living green jungle is illuminated beneath a nimbus of crimson cloud with the arrival of dawn in Kemaman, Malaysia. A mission of heavy importance awaits the crew of a white hulled cutter, and the thoughts of many are laden with logistics, plans and deadlines. Malaysia is a mystery not yet explored by personnel of Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau.

Immediate tasks must be taken care of first, such as establishing shore power, taking on fresh water and loading supplies. The July heat rises under an ascending sun. The crew hydrates and the air feels heavy with moisture.

Morgenthau is here conducting the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training () exercise with the Navy. Essentially the mission is designed as a cross training opportunity for the Coast Guard, Navy and host country’s armed forces. In Malaysia, the Navy and Coast Guard are conducting joint medical and construction operations as well as military, law enforcement and search and rescue training with the Malaysian Armed Forces.

Medical professionals of the Coast Guard, Navy and Malaysian Armed Forces arrived at the Kebangsaan School, in the village of Kijal, Malaysia, on July 8, 2008, and provided treatment, medicine and medical advice for the residents and students there for a total of three days.

Children and adults, though shy at first, CARATwere soon greeting their guests with honest smiles, ‘good morning sirs’ and hand gesture peace signs. The welcoming locals and high spirit days were experienced with great reward by the sea weary volunteers.

“This mission shows that human beings everywhere are the same, and feel from the heart the desire to help one another,” said Malaysian Army Capt. Faizul Nordin, Royal Medical Corps.

“It has been a great experience working together with the Navy and Coast Guard medical team,” said Nordin. “It is important for us to both develop relationships with each other, as well as the local people.”

The children, young ladies in traditional Muslim clothing and young men in school uniforms, were eager to interact with the visitors from afar. On the second day everyone involved held a sports day. Challenging looks of confidence mocked the maritime services, who proved to be no match for the dexterous youth of Kijal.

Health Service Technician Second Class Tania Goicuria-Diaz was among the Coast Guard volunteers at the village. She spent most of her time in Malaysia performing examinations, providing medicine and giving advice toward the treatment of ailments.

“This is what the Coast Guard is all about, helping people, and that is what we have done here. It has been very rewarding to work with Doctor Nordin and learn about the local customs,” said Goicuria-Diaz.

Goicuria-Diaz is with Morgenthau on temporary assigned duty, her permanent unit being Air Station Humboldt Bay, Calif. She volunteered for the patrol and has been working with the cutter’s medical crew on similar missions in Thailand, Philippines and Singapore over the past several months.

Meanwhile, a Navy construction battalion from Gulfport, Mississippi, is hard at work building an addition to the school. They arrived 20 days ahead of the Coast Guard, and expected the project to be completed on July 16th. Malaysian Armed Forces volunteers worked alongside the Sea Bees, as they are called, matching them worker for worker, hour for hour, every day. Each workforce earned the respect of their counterparts by labor and intent of goodwill.

The Coast Guard Deployable Operations Group (DOG) conducted an exchange of military and law enforcement training with their Malaysian counterparts, the Maritim Malaysia agency. The DOG, working with crewmembers of Morgenthau, shared their knowledge and experience of navigation, search and rescue, law enforcement and team coordination with this Malaysian maritime enforcement agency.

The training consisted of several days of classroom study and practice followed by three days of underway exercise. During the time at sea the agencies boarded each other’s vessels simulating that one side or the other were smugglers, and reacting realistically as the responding enforcement agency. Each side was eager to learn and the experience turned out to be a lot of fun for both agencies.

Towering clouds reach high into the upper atmosphere in the South China Sea, with sunsets of majesty that a camera can’t capture. Unrecognized jellyfish drift by the white hull and crewmembers eyes look seaward with thoughts of distant shores. Fatigue settles in the evening after the heat and labor of the days. An easy swell and the engines murmur eases the crew to sleep. Dreams are fueled as their minds take in new experiences during the deep slumber of exhaustion.

After an overnight port call, Morgenthau departed Malaysia as it had arrived, in the glow of the rising sun. Kemaman had been visited by the Coast Guard during CARAT before, and most likely will be again. To the crew of Morgenthau, this will be remembered as a vivid tale of smiling children, graceful customs and welcoming people. To the people of Kijal and Malaysian Armed Forces, the crew will be remembered as travelers who came on a mission of goodwill, and departed with the simple reward of accomplishment.

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