Written by Lt. Jon Bernhardt, seaward security officer, Commander Task Group 56.5.
The Coast Guard’s chief petty officer charge says as a chief, “It is now required that you be the fount of wisdom, the ambassador of good will, the authority in personnel relations, as well as technical applications.” If you had to put a face to this charge, it would be Chief Petty Officer Keith Cupples.
Cupples is a reservist assigned to Combined Task Group 56.5, a joint U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard command in Kuwait. The task group is a part of the Central Command area of responsibility and provides seaward security for Kuwait Navy Base and the Port of Ash Shuaybah, Kuwait.
Currently the command is comprised of the Navy’s Marine Security Expeditionary Squadron 4 and the Coast Guard’s Port Security Unit 305. As part of the joint task group – made up of more than 190 personnel – the seaward security department is responsible for vessel escorts and force protection for assigned assets, U.S. personnel or combat critical cargo.
Cupples hit the ground running before his unit was even in the region as part of PSU 305’s advance party team. Arriving before the rest of the unit, he assisted the executive officer in assessing mission requirements and drafting both a joint concept of operations and mission guidelines for the new CTG 56.5 command.
The 54-member PSU 305 boat detachment, a component of the seaward security department, operates under the leadership of Cupples. After taking over the boat detachment, Cupples worked to qualify as both a patrol leader and seaward security watch officer.
“As the first Coast Guard member of our task group to qualify as a Navy patrol leader, he definitely set the bar for both Coast Guard and Navy to follow as more members sit for their qualification board,” said Cmdr. Michael J. Ferullo, commanding officer of PSU 305.
Setting the example himself, Cupples strives for excellence in the boat detachment to include constant weapons training, formulating joint Navy and Coast Guard watches, drafting mission briefs and maintaining the unit’s training records.
Cupples also enhanced the mission for the entire task group as he improved CTG 56.5 standing orders related to tactical craft operations and navigation. These improvements came into play during several high-profile missions such as the Army’s Task Force Vulcan ammunition resupply operation and the protection of the United Kingdom’s newest warship, HMS Daring.
He also uses his wealth of knowledge and experience and combines it with an innate way of teaching that makes people just want to succeed. He knows that to get the mission done you also have to take care of your people. Many of the unit’s younger members are on their first deployment; acutely aware of this fact, Cupples maintains a constant vigil over them, checking on both their personal and professional well-being.
“BMC is the kind of leader that every commanding officer hopes and prays to have at their unit,” said Ferullo. “He is one of those people that when a problem comes up, as a commanding officer you think, ‘Ok, don’t have to worry about this because chief’s on it.’”