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Operation Irensia: A new chapter in Pacific maritime cooperation

In a gathering of maritime allies, the Guardian-class patrol ships PSS President HI Remeliik II (001) from Palau and FSS Bethwel Henry (P902) from the Federated States of Micronesia and alongside the Forum-class RMIS Lomor (03) from the Marshall Islands, the crew of the USCGC Frederick Hatch (WPC 1143) and a Station Apra Harbor 29-foot Response Boat-Small conduct a formation sail off of Guam, June 7, 2024. Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard/ Chief Warrant Officer Sara Muir 

By Sara Muir

US Coast Guard

In a display of regional unity and maritime prowess, U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia and Base Guam hosted the inaugural Operation Irensia from June 3 to 9 at Apra Harbor, Guam.

This landmark event, the successful inaugural Operation Irensia, was a testament to the unity and cooperation among Pacific Island nations and allied forces. It also coincided with World Oceans Week.

The culmination of two years of meticulous planning and coordination, the operation brought together the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and Australia in a shared commitment to preserving the security and prosperity of the Pacific region.

Operation Irensia, meaning 'heritage' in Chamorro, symbolizes a shared commitment to preserving the security and prosperity of the Pacific region through enhanced interoperability and cooperative engagement.

The operation featured participants from Palau with their Guardian-class Patrol Boat (GPB) PSS President HI Remeliik II (001) and the Federated States of Micronesia with their GPB FSS Bethwel Henry (P902) and the Marshall Islands with their Pacific-class RMIS Lomor (03), alongside the USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) and USCGC Frederick Hatch (WPC 1143), and members of Forces Micronesia and Base Guam.

"Operation Irensia showcases our collective capabilities and strengthens the bonds between our nations. This initiative, two years in the making, is a testament to our enduring commitment to the Pacific region. We are grateful to all our partners and eager for this to become an annual event, continuing to foster a legacy of collaboration and security," said Capt. Robert Kistner, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia, expressing his enthusiasm for the success of the operation and its future potential.

The operation featured a robust week of activities, including an opening ceremony, a law enforcement and mock boarding subject matter exchange, a series of competitive seamanship and damage control events, various social gatherings such as a beach BBQ and basketball tournament, and multiple underway days for practical at-sea exercises. These activities enhance interoperability and strengthen partnerships among the participating Pacific maritime forces.

The operation would not have been possible without the strong support of the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Pacific Maritime Security Program, which played a pivotal role in facilitating the participation of various nations, including logistics, and providing mentorship to the crews involved.

"We are thrilled to collaborate with our partner, the U.S. Coast Guard, to bring Operation Irensia to life," said Dr Liz Brierley, assistant secretary of the Pacific Maritime Branch from the Australian Department of Defence. "The operation provides the opportunity to support our Pacific partners in building their capability, increasing interoperability, and strengthening regional maritime security."

"We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all the nations and agencies that have turned Operation Irensia from a concept into a reality," added Captain Kistner. "Their willingness, dedication, and cooperation have set a high standard for future engagements and paved the way for a secure, unified Pacific. We also extend a deep thank you to the U.S. Navy and Naval Base Guam for assisting us in being gracious hosts through their port operations support."

The success of Operation Irensia underscores its significant role in enhancing regional maritime security. It demonstrates the ongoing commitment of the U.S. and its allies to maintaining peace and stability in the Pacific region.

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