Coast Guard crews gear up for Rose Fest Fleet Week

13th Coast Guard District NewsBy Petty Officer Shawn Eggert

Two Coast Guard 25-foot response boat crews met under the damp, gray sky of Portland, Ore., Friday. Their mission: to enforce a security zone around a small vessel carrying a couple of old guys. Their weapons: some fast boats, empty rifles and a few rubber shotguns. After a week of Response Boat Tactics, Techniques and Procedures training, all the pieces were in place for a final showdown on the Columbia River.

“This tactical training involves weapons, boat driving and classroom time learning rules and regulations in order to prepare our crews for situations they might encounter in the course of an escort,” said Chief Justin Eaton, Officer in Charge at Coast Guard Station Portland.

A third response boat, bearing Eaton and another crew, posed as an intrusive vessel, presenting the two training crews with a range of scenarios meant to test their ability to provide security to helpful Coast Guard Auxiliary members serving as the crew of the escorted vessel. These situations ranged from benign trespassing and medical emergencies meant to divert the crews’ attentions to volatile confrontations complete with water balloon grenades and mock weapons.

“Things got more heated when I walked out onto the deck with a rubber rocket launcher,” Eaton explained.

“Our encounters on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers usually only involve educating boaters to stay out of the way of oncoming vessels,” said Petty Officer Matthew Riesberg, Operations Petty Officer at Station Portland.

“You train for the worst, but ninety-nine percent of the time you’re going to get the best-case scenario,” Eaton added.

Station Portland conducts RBTTP training twice a year with certain personnel reporting to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and then returning to share what they’ve learned with their shipmates from around the Coast Guard’s Thirteenth District.

“We’re lucky to have the kinds of conditions present in this part of the Columbia River. The water is normally flat and calm,” Riesberg explained. “That makes it ideal for this sort of training so we’ve had crews out from Cape Disappointment and we’ve offered to train crews from Seattle and throughout the district.”

The latest training was scheduled to prepare the crews for the Portland Rose Festival Fleet Week that begins June 6.

“We’re going to escort the Navy ships and any other high interest vessels that come up the river,” said Eaton. “All this training is a way for us to ensure we have qualified crews ready to provide safety and security to those vessels, especially since Rose Fest happens to take place right at the beginning of the transfer season.”

“I think people get used to seeing the Coast Guard as life savers and don’t expect to see us carrying machine guns and wearing helmets and body armor,” Eaton added. “Situations like this show them the Coast Guard has more than one mission.”

Recreational boaters planning to attend the festival during Fleet Week are encouraged to monitor or contact Coast Guard and other officials on VHF Channels 13 and 16 on their marine radios for information regarding safety and security zones during the event.

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