Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell provides training to Malaysian Maritime Enforcement

Nearly 30 members of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, dressed in uniform blue trousers and shirts, sat in the wardroom of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell. It was the first of three days of training, and each person listened attentively to Lt. j.g. Daniel T. Holland, Boutwell’s lead instructor for maritime law enforcement training, and one of the few people in the room in a desert camouflage uniform.

The training took place during the three days following Boutwell’s arrival in the port of Kato Kinabalu Feb. 4, 2009, 11 days before the MMEA celebrated its fourth birthday.

The MMEA, also known as the Malaysian Coast Guard, is the principal government agency charged with maintaining law and order and coordinating search and rescue operations in the Malaysian Maritime Zone and on the high seas. The agency and its members are part of the Malaysian Civil Service and report directly to the Prime Minister’s Department.

The members of the MMEA received both classroom style and practical hands on training from the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter.

“This included an in-depth analysis of our use of force policy and continuum and boarding procedures,” said Holland. “We gave them the same presentation that we give to our prospective boarding team members. It gives us the opportunity to perform practical demonstrations in a classroom setting,” he said.

Afterward, the training moved from the wardroom and onto the pier to accommodate more practical hands-on training.

The MMEA was guided through several practical exercises including stances, escorting, pressure points and handcuffing, said Holland.

The training culminated with both services performing mock boardings, effectively combining all the training of the last three days into one final exercise.

The exercise took place aboard an MMEA vessel anchored off the coast of Kato Kinabalu. The boarding teams were instructed to act as if the vessel were a U.S. flagged fishing vessel in U.S. territorial seas. Two Boutwell crewmembers were asked to dress in civilian clothes and play the parts of the vessel’s Captain and crewman.

The Coast Guard team conducted a fisheries boarding which turned into a felony arrest for the master who had a warrant out for arms possession, said Holland. After the Coast Guard team had demonstrated its capabilities and training, the MMEA team repeated the scenario using the techniques learned in the training with Boutwell crewmembers earlier that day.

“Coming on the heels of the October 2008 meeting of the heads of the US and Malaysian coast guards at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the successful completion in November of the first U.S. Coast Guard-led training course in East Malaysia, the visit of the Boutwell is another important milestone of the quickly deepening bilateral relationship between the MMEA and U.S. Coast Guard,” said Jason Donovan, the U.S. Embassy’s Coordinator for the South East Asia Regional Strategic Initiative. “What the MMEA lacked in experience while receiving this type of working port call, it made up for in the eagerness of its officers to ensure the success of the visit and the enthusiasm of its personnel participating in the training exercises and discussions,” he said.

During Boutwell’s time in Kato Kinabalu, several crewmembers volunteered for a public service project involving the restoration of a wetlands conservation park in the city of Kato Kinabalu. The project allowed members of both services to work together to promote good public relations by serving the local Malaysian community.

Boutwell’s visit to Kato Kinabalu is just another step in the Coast Guard’s ongoing operational commitment to promote maritime safety, security and stewardship by reaching out to foreign seagoing services around the world.

“The short-term benefit of the training is that the MMEA gained insight into our use of force policy and boarding procedures, which they can now apply as they see fit,” said Holland. “We learned how other organizations with similar missions conduct boardings, which is always instructive. The big picture importance of the training is a mutual respect between the MMEA and Coast Guard, and a growing diplomatic relationship between our two nations,” he said.

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