Many Coasts- Sharing the Mission Beyond Our Shores

by Petty Officer Eric J. Chandler (For Release)

BRUNEI – Quiet waves arrive at a tropical shore with a metronome’s rhythmic perfection. White sand beaches are divided by peaks of volcanic rock. Strange shells mark the line of high tide. At the sands edge begins an impassible mass of vegetation, bamboo, twisting vines and broad leaved trees.

Sounds of unseen beasts and spiced scents emerge from the flora. Pathless, dense foliage drips wet with humidity and even stone appears to sweat in the moist heat. The bright eyes and gracious smiles of passing locals lighten the mood and fortify a feeling of appreciation. To a homesick sailor, labors showing immediately positive results are priceless.

Crewmembers of Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau find tranquility here, a reward for their work. They will have been underway for 248-days of fiscal year 2008 by the end of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise.

CARAT is an annual Southeast Asia mission that houses several sub-missions of international significance. This year CARAT visited Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, and with just a few more port calls, the cutter will be returning to its home port of Alameda, Calif.

The idea is to share the Coast Guard’s missions, techniques and traditions in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Rim and throughout the world. Programs like CARAT, the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum and United Nation’s Law of the Seas Treaty have taken our objectives to similar agencies guarding many coasts with the same methods and principles we use at home. Sharing goals and strategy ensures that our nations will be able to work together when we need to.

One of the primary missions of CARAT is a cooperative training between the Navy, Coast Guard and host nation’s armed forces and maritime services. For the Coast Guard this means exchanging knowledge of antipiracy, anti-smuggling, law enforcement practices and search and rescue (SAR). This training is mainly conducted by the Deployable Operations Group (DOG) and members of Morgenthau’s crew.

For each country, this part of the mission includes several days of classroom work, followed by underway mock boarding, law enforcement and SAR drills. The Coast Guard and local maritime services take turns locating fake contraband and disarming and detaining suspects on each other’s vessels. They also conduct underway SAR and navigation drills, staging small boats as vessels in distress and locating them as quickly as possible.

Coast Guard Gunner’s Mate First Class John Ware, a law enforcement subject matter expert for the DOG, is one of the instructors selected for this year’s CARAT.

“It is beneficial for the host countries to have this training. It gives them a ‘good, better, best,’ practice in dealing with piracy, fisheries law enforcement and migrant interdiction. It also gives them a chance to gain inter-agency experience and see other countries standard operating procedures, while comparing them to their own,” said Ware.

A new addition to the CARAT 2008 mission has been the inclusion of members of the Coast Guard Strike Team. Machinery Technician Petty Officer First Class Anthony Gonzalez and Marine Science Technician First Class Bridgette Brown gave host countries presentations on the National Incident Management System (NIMS), Coast Guard history, missions and a tabletop discussion on the Coast Guards involvement and perspective in natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

“The strike team holds a specific expertise in Coast Guard operations, being able to share it with the host nations so that they can learn from our experience is very important work,” said Brown.

Community relations projects have kept public attention in many participating countries. Brunei media displayed the Coast Guard, Navy and local armed forces efforts in local newspapers and television. These missions are not intended as humanitarian aid, because each local government and military agency participates in the projects. They serve a vital role in strengthening the relationships between U.S. Armed Forces, Southeast Asian Armed Forces and the local people of each country.

“The 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 is important for us to develop relationships both with each other, as well as the local people.”

Projects have ranged from medical aid in remote and economically challenged areas to construction and community interaction projects at schools for special needs children and orphanages. Each project had more volunteers than could be logistically supported, and many of those selected returned at an emotional loss of words when trying to describe their experiences with the local people.

“This is what the Coast Guard is all about, helping people, and that is what we have done here,” said Health Service Technician Second Class Tania Goicuria-Diaz, one of the volunteers who worked on a medical mission in the village of Kijal, Malaysia.

The final stage of CARAT is the Southeast Asia Cooperation Against Terrorism (SEACAT) exercise. SEACAT is a scenario based multi-national, multi-agency drill that follows CARAT in the South China Sea. The Coast Guard, Navy and host countries participate in scenarios to strengthen their ability to work together in emergencies.

To the crew of Morgenthau it is all in a day’s work. Gunnery exercises, field days, drills and more drills. Steel beach, swim call, casino night and movie Friday on the flight deck. At night they wait for sleep with eyes closed, but active minds. They hear the engines, and know they are going home, yard by yard. Drifting into sleep, they count remaining days of watch. Rounds are made in the engine room. Qualifications are studied in the learning center. Email is checked more and more frequently.

Mission completion approaches, home is getting closer and excitement begins to show at the mention of favorite coffee shops, television shows, family and friends.  The crew works and plays harder to pass the time. The Coast Guard’s goal has been to make the world a safer place. To the crew, the unwritten story will be the memories of a lifetime.

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