Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Annie Elis, Coast Guard public affairs specialist aboard Coast Guard Cutter Forward.
The Forward arrived in Monrovia, Liberia, June 17, marking their second African port call on the four-month journey. During the trip across the vast Atlantic Ocean toward West Africa, six Liberian Coast Guard members sailed with the ship, and joined the crew in every aspect of life at sea.
Throughout the trip, the Liberians – who attended the U.S. Coast Guard’s boatswain’s mate, damage controlman and machinery technician training schools in Yorktown, Va., used their seamanship, damage control response, small boat operations, line handling and engine room maintenance skills alongside their U.S. Coast Guard counterparts.
Attending the vocational school in Yorktown allowed the Liberians a much easier trip across the Atlantic. After a short experience with seasickness, they settled into life aboard the 270-foot steel ship.
“I had some duties, like lookout and helmsman, which I had a great time doing.” said Liberian Coast Guard Seaman Boatswain’s Mate Timothy Birch. “My trip from the U.S. to Liberia on the Cutter Forward will always be remembered by me as long as I live because I had great experiences.”
After four long weeks at sea, the port of Monrovia, Liberia, was a welcome site to the crew of the Forward, especially the African Coast Guardsmen.
After mooring at the pier, the entire Liberian Coast Guard boarded the Forward to get a taste of what their six shipmates experienced during the patrol. The rest of the Forward’s crew demonstrated shipboard welding, electrical work, engine room maintenance, navigation, law enforcement, first aid and how to fight a shipboard fire for their counterparts, who eagerly watched and learned from the demonstrations.
Two of the Liberian Coast Guard members also got underway on the Forward’s small boat to practice basic boat driving principles and conduct response drills.
“The benefit for them was learning boat driving fundamentals, which they can use in every aspect of their job back in Liberia,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Raymond Figueroa, a coxswain aboard the Forward. “Even though we have different types of training resources, learning to maneuver our 23-foot boat will help the Liberians learn how to maneuver their own 27-foot boat.”
The Liberian’s strong work ethic and ability to learn fast left a good impression on the Forward crew.
“They were ready to work and learn, with whatever we taught them,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Margaret Smith, a machinery technician aboard the cutter. “It made our differences in culture easier to work through because they were very motivated to learn.”
When the ship docked in Monrovia, the crews had become a team.
“The Liberians taught us a lot about their country, and we shared a lot with them, too,” said Smith. “We’d love to have them back.”