As one of the Coast Guard’s newest assets, the national security cutters bring operational capabilities the fleet needs for mission success. Over the next few weeks, the wardroom of the service’s first NSC will share their unique perspective on how the fleet’s newest class of cutters will perform in the world’s most challenging operating environments from the bridge of the Bertholf. You can also check with Coast Guard Alaska later in the week for the view from the deck plate, focusing on Bertholf’s day to day operations that make their missions a success.
Written by Lt. j.g. Brian Lisko, assistant weapons officer, Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf.
Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf has been on its first Alaska Patrol, or ALPAT, for a week or so, and since entering the 17th Coast Guard District waters, has adapted and adjusted well to the always changing weather and challenges of the region. An ALPAT is very different than a counter-drug patrol, and having been aboard Coast Guard Cutter Jarvis, a high endurance cutter, and now Bertholf, I am able to compare and contrast the differences of the high endurance cutters and the national security cutters in both types of patrols.
To me, Bertholf’s greatest accomplishment this week was completing our first-ever District 17 fishery boarding. This past Friday, we boarded a catcher/processor vessel, which is an in-depth technical boarding because of all the fishery regulations. Lasting nearly five hours, the boarding officer needed to transfer additional boarding team members from the cutter. This turned into a very difficult task, as the weather was typical for Alaska – eight-foot swells with winds up to 22 mph.
The small boat coxswain, Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Gonzales, a boatswain’s mate, did an outstanding job handling multiple personnel and gear transfers in order to complete the boarding. The boarding officer was able to educate the master on logbook etiquette and issued three violations, which will ultimately improve fisheries management in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska.
This week we also embarked our aviation detachment from Air Station Kodiak. Having an aviation detachment in heavy weather provides Bertholf the opportunity to identify areas unique to the national security cutter and establish doctrine and procedures for future cutters on ALPATs.
For example, this week we tested our ability to traverse the helicopter in heavy weather, which was challenged because our hangars are offset from the centerline and we cannot roll the helicopter straight in or out. Thus, we need to turn the helicopter on deck, controlling the helicopter’s momentum, as the ship is rolling in heavy seas. As always, we found a sufficient and safe method to traverse the helicopter in heavy weather, documented how it was done through video and photographic imagery, and will provide a template for future national security cutters.
I believe the largest challenge for the national security cutters during an ALPAT will be launching the small boat and conducting boardings in the rough Alaskan seas. This could prove especially difficult with our stern launch system because it is has never been tested before in Alaskan waters. As we did with traversing the helicopter, we will closely evaluate the sea conditions, use our current doctrine and procedures for launching the small boat and learn and adapt after each launch.
Bertholf has also performed joint helicopter operations with two Army Black Hawks from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. While the cutter was steaming in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, two Army Black Hawks set up in a traffic pattern and conducted more than 80 evolutions on Bertholf’s flight deck. This assisted in the recertification of 10 pilots and six flight chiefs for their upcoming deployment to the Middle East. Being able to land Black Hawks on the flight deck of a Coast Guard national security cutter truly demonstrates our ability to interoperate with the Department of Defense on special missions. I look forward to again demonstrating our inter-service capabilities when we work with the Navy and Air Force during the Northern Edge military exercise to be held in June in the Gulf of Alaska.
In June of 2010, Lt. j.g. Brian Lisko reported to Coast Guard Cutter Betholf as the assistant weapons officer. Over the past 10 months, he has filled many roles aboard the cutter such as navigator, navigation systems training team leader, law enforcement officer, law enforcement training team leader, force protection training team leader aviation coordinator and an aviation training team leader. Lisko served as one of the cutter’s two boarding officers when the ship stopped 12,500 kilograms of cocaine, worth nearly $400 million, from being smuggled into the U.S.