By Chief Warrant Officer Sara Muir
U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam
Ponhpei — U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam personnel completed a pivotal Search and Rescue (SAR) Exercise with partners from the FSM Maritime Wing, Fire and Rescue services, and Pohnpei Department of Public Safety from Dec. 4 to 7, 2023, in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
This exercise marks a continuation of efforts to bolster SAR capabilities in the region, highlighting the enduring partnership between the U.S. Coast Guard and its Pacific Island partners under the Compact of Free Association (COFA).
In this collaborative framework, FSM has the role of Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator for incidents within their territorial seas, while the U.S. Coast Guard takes on the responsibility of SMC for all other occurrences in their exclusive economic zone, further emphasizing the complementary strengths and responsibilities of each nation in ensuring maritime safety.
Despite challenging weather conditions, the two-day training program showcased a robust exchange of skills and knowledge. On the first day, the U.S. Coast Guard team, leveraging the facilities of the new Emergency Operations Center building in Pohnpei, led in-depth discussions on SAR patterns and the structure of U.S. Coast Guard command centers and conducted a case study analysis of an actual Pohnpei SAR case.
The second day of the exercise, spearheaded by Chief Petty Officer Robert Cook, executive petty officer of U.S. Coast Guard Station Apra Harbor, involved practical underway training.
Twenty participants, including personnel from the FSM Maritime Wing, Fire and Rescue services, and Pohnpei Department of Public Safety, engaged in set and drift training and search pattern execution exercises using three boats – one from the Maritime Wing and two Fire and Rescue vessels.
The hands-on training was a testament to the determination and adaptability of all involved, as they effectively carried out the exercises amid heavy rainfall.
While on island, U.S. Coast Guard representatives also met with FSM-based Australian Maritime Security Advisor, Lt. Cmdr. Nigel Williams. This discussion focused on efforts to hold a 2024 Patrol Boat Round-Up, symbolizing the collaborative spirit and shared maritime security interests in the Pacific region.
Additionally, the U.S. Coast Guard team was honored to unexpectedly meet the Vice President of FSM, Aren Palik, on their final day. Vice President Palik expressed his gratitude for the continuous support provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a sentiment that underscores the deep-rooted partnership between the United States and FSM.
Looking ahead, the U.S. Coast Guard is committed to providing ongoing support for SAR exercises in Pohnpei. The aim is to achieve interoperability culminating in an evaluation-type SAR exercise, further enhancing the region's maritime safety and response capabilities.
Lt. Cmdr. Christine Igisomar, the CGFM/SG maritime advisor, reflected on the exercise's success, stating, "This training exemplifies our shared commitment to ensuring the safety and security of our mariners. By sharing knowledge and resources, we are, as we have been for nearly eight decades in Micronesia, being good neighbors by strengthening our capabilities and forging bonds that transcend geographical boundaries."
The Federated States of Micronesia and the United States have a longstanding relationship under the Compact of Free Association. This agreement allows for U.S. economic assistance and defense provision in the region.
The U.S. Coast Guard is crucial in this partnership, particularly in maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship. Through initiatives like the SAR Exercise, the U.S. Coast Guard continues reinforcing its commitment to supporting its FSM partners, ensuring a safer and more secure maritime environment for all. (USGS)