After spending the better part of 23 years in the Coast Guard, Capt. Scott Decker was asked to temporarily trade in his uniform for a suit and tie and to abandon the familiar trappings of a cutter’s bridge for exotic locales like the American embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. As the first Coast Guard member of the State Department‘s Civilian Response Corps, Decker has spent the past year-and-a-half bringing his considerable maritime security experience and planning expertise to a team supporting American efforts in crisis response and stabilization efforts around the world.
The Civilian Response Corps is made up of specialists from across the federal government who are specially trained and equipped to deploy rapidly to provide conflict prevention and stabilization assistance to countries in crisis or emerging from conflict.
To the uninitiated, Kabul may seem like a strange place to find a Coast Guard officer leading a civilian planning and assessment team in land-locked Afghanistan. But, it’s business as usual for the career cutterman who has seen more than his fair share of multiagency and international operations while commanding Coast Guard units on law enforcement and search and rescue missions at sea. Decker’s team is charged with helping U.S. Embassy Kabul, International Security Assistance Forces and U.S. Forces Afghanistan coordinate and integrate their efforts with those of the government of Afghanistan.
“Our ability to work with civilians as well as other military personnel is a key cultural dynamic within the Coast Guard,” said Decker in a recent interview with Compass. “There is a lot of law enforcement or rule of law-related efforts going on in Afghanistan, anti-corruption efforts, border control, customs enforcement and collection. So, having prior experiences with those types of people in various cultures definitely helped with this assignment.”
In all, Decker has spent a little over eight months in Afghanistan during his 18 months with the Civilian Response Corps. He has also deployed to Germany where he took part in a two-week NATO exercise studying the challenges and implications of trying to enforce rule of law and reestablish border control on foreign soil during a crisis.
When he isn’t being sent to regions he might not otherwise see as a member of the Coast Guard, Decker spends his time working out of a typical Washington, D.C., office where he leads a team supporting Civilian Response Corps members currently deployed to and planning for potential future deployments to Afghanistan or Pakistan. With about a year to go in his current assignment, Decker has already gained a new appreciation for the diplomatic efforts the United States undertakes across the globe.
“It is definitely a challenging world in many aspects and I’ve seen a lot of agencies work within their own mandates to accomplish their objectives and what they see as their contribution to our nation’s security,” said Decker. “But, I’ve also seen, when we work together to build unity of effort, that we can accomplish so much more than just individual efforts. So that was a big thing I took away from my time in Afghanistan.”
The Coast Guard looks forward to Capt. Decker’s return to uniformed duty next summer where his experiences in international planning and diplomacy will only further his many contributions to the service.