Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Barney.
Professional sports clubs around the world make a living by suiting up and competing to be recognized as the best at what they do. However, before stepping onto the field to compete in front of thousands of screaming fans, each team has to train.
Long rigorous hours are spent fine-tuning and perfecting strategies that will physically and mentally prepare the team to overcome any obstacle. Through constant training, the team develops a rhythm and language that only they can understand and communicate. Through committed training and communication, teams learn to fight as one.
That committed mentality and painstaking training ethic is shared by the men and women of the United States Coast Guard. Coast Guardsmen have a lot of pressure as being the lifeline to many people who are lost or distressed at sea. In order to complete the missions effectively, training is a constant for each member of the team.
Lt. Christopher Branning with Coast Guard Air Station Miami is an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter pilot. He and his crew soar through the skies day and night searching, patrolling and training in support of Coast Guard missions. When Branning isn’t training or performing life-saving operations, he competes professionally in sailboat racing around the world. The training he received to perform under pressure is something he utilizes in the air and on the water.
“The similarities between competitive sailboat racing and Coast Guard search-and-rescue operations are massive,” said Branning. “Both are finely tuned efforts of teamwork and knowledge that demand you make decisions in very stressful environments.”
On Oct. 20, 2013, Branning’s team aboard the sailing vessel Lucky won the 656 nautical mile Audi Hong Kong to Vietnam race, finishing first in class among 17 other boats. The collaborative effort and commitment aboard the sailing vessel proved to be the keys to their success that is often reflected inside the cabin of a rescue helicopter.
“If the crew, both sailboat and aircrew, isn’t working together and overlapping their efforts, they are actually fighting each other,” said Branning. “Ideas and leadership can always be lost in translation, but the better the teamwork amongst the sailors and crew the more the efforts of the individuals can be pointed in the direction of success.”
Through open communication and repetition, rescue crews learn how to react and communicate through difficult and sometimes life threatening situations that can determine the success of their mission. Each crewmember has a specific responsibility that plays a vital role to efficiently and safely take people away from dangerous situations.
Teamwork is a vital tool to every Coast Guard mission. Through carefully planned coordination, Coast Guardsmen successfully complete missions that couldn’t have been performed without the cooperation between commands, units and crews. Every Coast Guardsman is vital to the mission because each one of them is a part of the team.
“Everyone in the helicopter and sailboat has a difficult and specific role and it’s absolutely vital to the success of the mission,” said Branning. “There are no replacements or substitutes for anyone on the team.”