Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class George Degener
More than 135 U.S. Coast Guard personnel are on the ground and on the water in Antigua and Barbuda this week working with more than 20 partner nations in support of Exercise Tradewinds 2011. As the lead federal agency for maritime law enforcement, the Coast Guard works closely with its partner agencies in exercises designed to build relationships and enhance security and inter-operability throughout the Caribbean.
As part of the exercise’s maritime portion, the more than 75 crewmembers of Coast Guard Cutter Diligence, homeported in Wilmington, N.C., arrived in Antigua and Barbuda last week after being underway for more than 30 days conducting maritime-law-enforcement and search and rescue operations.
“This is a great opportunity for other nations to learn from us and for us to take something away from working with them,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Alan McCosley, a maritime enforcement specialist aboard Diligence, originally from Broadway, N.C. “Coming down here for an operation like this is something you remember your entire career.”
All of the participating nations in Tradewinds 2011 share common interests in the region and have the shared goal of increasing the presence and inter-operability of security forces in the region.
“What we wanted to do was go over basic boarding procedures,” said Lt. j.g. Michael Persun, a native of Hershey, Pa., and one of Diligence’s boarding officers. “We covered everything from the initial safety inspection, which ensures both the boarding team’s safety and that of the vessel’s crew to information gathered by observing the vessel and using tactical procedures once you get onboard.”
The tactical procedures portion of the day’s exercise featured demonstrations by members of Diligence’s law-enforcement team, role players and scenarios that allowed the multi-national group to use the strategies and actions in a training environment before using them in the field.
“They already had a sound understanding of the basic procedures,” said Persun. “When it came to the tactical procedures, they were seeing a lot of it for the first time, but they were really enthusiastic about learning and showed vast improvement throughout the day.”
In mixed-nationality teams, participants navigated the darkened hallways of the Antigua-Barbuda Defense Force Coast Guard Base. After coming to a door they had to decide quickly on the entrance maneuver they would use and in what order they would clear the room. If they found a suspicious person, it was their responsibility to decide how they would extract that person while maintaining awareness of what was happening around them.
“All of the work we did was geared toward a high-risk boarding situation,” said Persun. “We used nonverbal communication like hand signals and shoulder taps to get everyone involved to work more as a team.”
“Teamwork is the key to an effective and safe boarding,” said McCosley. “If we had to do a boarding with them, it gives them an idea of the way we do things, and that level of cooperation and confidence helps keep everyone involved safe.”
During the course of Tradewinds 2011, Diligence crewmembers will be involved in more than 10 days of training, culminating in a field training exercise that will improve the capabilities of participating nations’ forces and promote stability in the region.
Tradewinds is a joint-combined, interagency exercise and will involve U.S. personnel from the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard, Joint-interagency Task Force-South, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation along with forces from: Antigua-Barbuda (host nation), Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Colombia, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.