This is the first of a three-part series focused on Adm. Bob Papp’s travel to the Middle East and Europe to meet with partner organizations and visit Coast Guard personnel. It was written with contributions by Ademide Adedokun.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp visited Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia in Manama, Bahrain, this week to learn more about the unit’s evolving mission in support of U.S. naval forces in the region and meet with Coast Guard personnel. This coordination is critical to the Coast Guard’s continued support, as part of the combined armed forces in the area, to protect U.S. national interests.
The Coast Guard established PATFORSWA as a contingency operation in November 2002 following a U.S. Navy request for patrol boats to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. The focus then was protecting two Iraqi oil terminals responsible for 90 percent of the nation’s gross national income. The Coast Guard answered by deploying 110-foot patrol boats with support personnel to conduct this mission.
“Most people typically see us day-to-day on U.S. waters saving lives, enforcing law and protecting the marine environment,” said Papp. “But the Coast Guard is also at all times a military service and member of the U.S. armed forces. We have routinely fought in the Nation’s wars and conflicts since our founding in 1790.”
We expanded our role by deploying forces into Iraq to provide training and advisory support to Iraqi naval forces and inspection support for redeploying U.S. forces back home. In other locations, Coast Guard forces secure ports being used by U.S. ships and train other naval forces in the region to enhance their skills.
The increase in demand led to PATFORSWA becoming a fully commissioned permanent duty station in June 2004. It represents the largest allocation of Coast Guard forces outside of the United States.
In January 2009, PATFORSWA began training and administrative support for Coast Guard Visit Board Search and Seizure teams deployed with Task Force 151 on counter-piracy operations in the western Indian Ocean near Somalia. And more recently, in September 2010, PATFORSWA transitioned to Operation New Dawn with other Department of Defense forces, during which the mission changed from combat to stability operations in Iraq.
“I am very pleased to hear that our capabilities are being put to good use here,” Papp said. “We are the only organization that can do what we do. I look forward to continued support to local naval operations.”
Today, PATFORSWA continues to deliver the Coast Guard’s unique capabilities as a member of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in support of national objectives. It’s key to success are the amazing people that volunteer each year to make the required sacrifices in leaving their loved ones and comforts behind and serving their nation far from home. Their reward is helping the Iraqi people rebuild their nation after decades of dictatorship and others in reducing the influence of terrorism.
“We have truly extraordinary people serving across the Middle East,” said Papp, adding, “I am always in awe of the volunteers we get each year for this duty, and they always exceed the number of positions we have in theater.”