Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Lehmann
It’s official. The start of the 52nd annual UNITAS multilateral training event has begun.
Unitas, Latin for unity, is a South American and U.S. sponsored series of annual military exercises aimed at promoting regional partnerships by building relationships and sharing expertise to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central, North and South American regions.
Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba, one of the ships participating in UNITAS, met with the U.S. Navy ships USS Boone and USS Thach off the coast of Brazil as they were making their way to UNITAS. Both crews saw this as an opportunity to learn from the other’s diverse culture of operations, so representatives were sent to intermingle, to learn, to teach and improve an already dynamic relationship.
“This deployment continues our efforts implementing the national sea power strategy,” said Cmdr. Edward Westfall, commanding officer of Escanaba. “In working with our sister sea service, the U.S. Navy, as well as partner nation navies, we are improving our flexibility, interoperability and maintaining a forward presence. These skills are critical in conducting the wide variety of missions and operations that occur on the water, around the globe.”
UNITAS is the world’s oldest ongoing multilateral maritime exercise and provides opportunities to develop international partnerships, exercise naval and seamanship skills, and generally prepare for challenges faced in contributing to the security and stability of each country’s respective maritime domain.
As part of this continuing effort, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Aaron Page, a boatswain’s mate aboard USS Boone, went aboard the Escanaba to teach the crew how the Navy ties down and secures their helicopters to their helipads.
“Their Navy Seahawks are different from our Coast Guard Jayhawks on their tie-downs. They don’t use straps, they use chains,” said Coast Guard Seaman Jakob Hansen, a member of the deck crew aboard Escanaba. “They have a different method than we do, so [Page] walked us through it.”
The crew of the Escanaba picked up the training very quickly, which was evident when less than 15 minutes after the training ended orders came over the intercom to prepare for an incoming Navy HH-60 Seahawk helicopter.
“It went pretty well,” said Hansen. “[Page] painted a very good picture for us, so when the helo came we knew exactly what to do, what it was going to look like and what motions to go through for it. It went really smooth for what little time we had to prepare for it.”
Even before the Escanaba’s crew meets up with the navies of other participating countries, they’ve had their first taste of a successful training evolution. And if this one instance is any indication of things to come, it won’t be their last.