Interoperability the Key for U.S. and Foreign Units Completing RIMPAC Exercises

By Lt. Brian Murphy

HONOLULU – The U.S. Coast Guard participated in a search and rescue exercise with the U.S. Navy and South Korea and Japan Aug. 5 as part of Rim of the Pacific Exercises 2008, organized by the U.S. Navy.

The three nation exercise, coordinated by the USS Lake Erie, took place approximately 80 miles south of Kauai. The Japanese Defense Forces vessel Haruna, the Republic of South Korea’s vessel Munmu the Great, and the USS Lake Erie coordinated response efforts to rescue a distressed vessel, played by Coast Guard Cutter Kitttiwake.

“The exercise presented an opportunity to evaluate our ability to communicate at an operational level”, said Lt. Christa Almonte, operations officer aboard USS Lake Erie. “It helps to enhance our training competencies, but also demonstrates interoperability and coordination in a real time scenario.”

On board the Kittiwake, Coast Guard members simulated an engineering casualty and injuries to crew members. Joint boarding teams from the U.S. Navy, Korea, and Japan were launched by small boat from USS Lake Erie, Munmu the Great, and the Haruna to respond to, and evaluate, the casualties on board the Coast Guard Cutter at sea.

A Coast Guard C-130 from Air Station Barber’s Point also participated in the exercise, acting as a communications platform to help vector the would-be rescue vessels to the distressed vessel’s position.

Lt. Michael Benson, the Coast Guard C-130 pilot involved in the exercise, said it was an interesting experience to participate in a search and rescue exercise such as the one Aug. 5. As a pilot, he said he can never get enough search and rescue experience.

“Overall, it was a success. This is good practice, and it helps to foster a sustained cooperative relationship between naval ships and aircraft in the Pacific region”, Almonte said.

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