Written by Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Migliorini
What is the U.S. Coast Guard doing in Oklahoma? This is a question asked of members of the Container Inspection Training and Assistance Team almost every day. So what is this group of marine safety professionals doing in the place where the wind goes sweeping down the plains? Keeping people safe from improperly transported hazardous materials, that’s what.
In 1994, the Coast Guard initiated the National Container Inspection Program to inspect and regulate maritime shipments of containerized hazardous materials. CITAT was formed in order to standardize inspection practices across the Coast Guard and train new container inspectors. The Coast Guard located its newly formed unit with the Department of Transportation’s Transportation Safety Institute at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Transportation Safety Institute provided a central location for experts and instructors in all modes of hazardous materials transportation to work together and share information.
Twenty years later, CITAT is a unit within the Force Readiness Command that provides Coast Guard Sectors and port partners with a multitude of services including Container Inspection training, Multi-Agency Strike Force Operations support, inspection supplies, industry outreach, and, most recently, support to the Department of Defense in the safe transportation of hazardous materials. True to its name, CITAT’s primary mission is to train and assist container inspectors throughout the Coast Guard. The majority of the training is conducted as week-long road shows that allow instructors to train a unit’s entire container inspection staff in their own port area. Last year, instructors spent an average of nearly four months on the road training 250 future container inspectors.
“This job has allowed me to travel all over the United States, to our OCONUS territories, Asia, Central America and South America…I never expected as an MST to have a passport full of stamps from so many countries,” said Petty Officer Scott Morton, a CITAT instructor.
Since the start of the contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Defense has called upon the Coast Guard to support U.S. Army units with the transportation of their hazardous materials. U.S. Army units heading home are assisted by the CITAT-trained Redeployment Assistance and Inspection Detachments overseas; units deploying out are supported directly by CITAT personnel.
“I’ve had the privilege to support the Army as both a member of RAID and CITAT,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer David Schacher, former assistant DOD support coordinator at CITAT. “This mission is vital to ensuring the soldiers get their gear safely in and out of theater.”
Prior to Coast Guard support, the DOD estimated that 95% of their containerized hazardous materials were offered for transport with deficiencies, causing major delays in their shipment and putting the safety of many at risk.
CITAT continues to be recognized as an expert in containerized hazardous materials and is called upon to provide assistance with new and emerging issues. This past year during operations to remove chemical weapons from Syria, CITAT provided guidance to our partners in the DOD on selecting the proper intermodal containers to transport the chemicals. More recently, CITAT has been assisting the 101st Airborne Division with deploying to West Africa in response to the Ebola outbreak.
From the Sooner State of Oklahoma, CITAT is providing unparalleled hazardous materials transportation training and technical assistance to ensure the safety of the nation, our DOD partners and seafarers around the globe.