As a military force, the Coast Guard is often called on by our counterparts in the Department of Defense to provide mission expertise unique to our service. Over the past several years, United States Forces Iraq has called upon the port infrastructure and security skills of Coast Guardsmen as leaders of the Port Advisory Coordinating Element.
Cmdr. Brenden Kettner is currently serving as officer-in-charge of PACE on his second tour of duty in Iraq. Upon his arrival, Kettner relieved Coast Guard Cmdr. James Robertson, who had led the PACE team for the past year and was featured earlier this month as a Shipmate of the Week.
Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sondra-Kay Kneen, Pacific Area Public Affairs
As fellow comrades take cover, the deafening echo of gun-shots assault his ears while smoke from bombs blind in the array of sand and wind. The simulated environment is surreal to the trainees, and yet they must stay alert and ready during urban operations training at Fort Dix, N.J.
Cmdr. Brenden J. Kettner, U.S. Coast Guard, recently completed a month-long training with the Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center with the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force ahead of a one-year tour in Iraq.
“The training I received while at Fort Dix was outstanding and really prepared me for my return to Iraq, said Kettner. “One of the reasons I joined the Coast Guard was to save lives and help people, the opportunity to become a certified Combat Life Saver aligns with our Coast Guard core mission of life saving.”
Kettner has been assigned to the United States Forces Iraq as the officer in charge, Port Advisory Coordinating Element, for his second engagement in Iraq. Kettner will be responsible for advising the Iraqi government and port authorities on improving the country’s anti-terrorism measures, especially along the Iranian border.
Kettner’s position will help improve security in the port and coordination of training with the intent to advance international ship and port facility security compliance. This will contribute to Iraq’s long term goals of trade, and developing in depth defense strategies against the real threat scenarios the country faces every day.
During Kettner’s previous assignment in Iraq, he had an opportunity to meet with both government officials in Baghdad as well as port operators in the port of Umm Qasr. There was a strong desire to improve port operations and efficiencies in the port as well as begin the process of rebuilding the governmental administration and support of Iraqi ports.
“I am back in Iraq with the experience of the Iraqi culture and a basic grasp of the language,” said Kettner. “This will help build new relationships and strengthen existing ones. I am really looking forward to seeing some of the people that I had worked with previously.”
Kettner was assigned as the International Port Security Liaison Officer to Iraq in 2007 and had the opportunity to see firsthand the challenges that needed to be overcome in transforming Iraqi ports into a gateway that could facilitate the reconstruction and revitalization of the country.
“There have been a lot of other Coast Guard men and women in the Middle East sacrificing being home with family, friends and other freedoms we take for granted,” said Kettner. “The Coast Guard’s missions out here, as the farthest deployed units in our service, are key in achieving our nation’s strategic and operational goals. Without all of us supporting each other it would be very difficult for one particular unit to succeed in their mission.”