Written by Ensign Timothy Storbeck and Seaman Lauren Steenson.
“Now, go-fast, go-fast, go-fast. All hands set the go-fast bill.” Early in the afternoon on Oct. 9, 2013, 20 nautical miles off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico, this announcement was heard over every intercom speaker on board Coast Guard Cutter Rush after an Air Station Sacramento HC-130 Hercules airplane sighted two suspicious vessels.
As boarding team members raced to don their law enforcement gear, the combat information center team determined the quickest route to intercept a vessel of interest. The boarding team and boat crew took to their seats in the cutter’s response boat and raced toward the go-fast.
As the response boat approached, the go-fast sped off leaving the Coast Guard crew in pursuit. Finally, the go-fast heaved to.
But this was no ordinary go-fast pursuit; this was the first of two days of the North American Maritime Security Initiative Pacific exercise. The NAMSI Pacific exercise is a component of a multi-year training and exercise plan between the United States, Canada and Mexico that gives participants the opportunity to test their skills in interactive, hands-on and real world tactical procedures.
The NAMSI Pacific exercise was designed to establish a learning environment for participants to execute emergency response plans, policies and procedures.
One of the primary objectives of the exercise was to evaluate the hand-off process for vessels and persons of interest in collaboration with foreign navies. After boarding the go-fast and detaining the crew, boarding team members conducted the basic initial safety sweep of the vessel, where they located suspected contraband and explosive devices.
The U.S. Coast Guard then escorted the go-fast to a Mexican naval ship, where they transferred custody of the go-fast, crew and evidence to the Mexican Navy.
“As a new law enforcement member, this was a good opportunity to experience training firsthand with other North American navies and recognize how important of a role communication plays in every evolution,” explained Ensign Ivanna Bertin, a boarding officer aboard Rush.
Simultaneously during this exchange, a similar hand-off was conducted between the Canadian and Mexican Navies utilizing Coast Guard Cutter Narwhal, an 87-foot patrol boat homeported in Newport Beach, Calif, as the other target of interest.
“NAMSI was an excellent opportunity to exercise and strengthen our partnership with our North American neighbors,” said Capt. Diane Durham, commanding officer of Rush. “My crew walked away with a better understanding of this vital international agreement, and honed their homeland security skills with the assistance of the Mexican and Canadian maritime forces.”