RIMPAC 2014: Combined cooperation

A boarding team from the People's Liberation Army (Navy) Haikou (DD 171) makes way toward the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche during a Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercise as part of Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2014. U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery.

A boarding team from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Haikou (DD 171) makes way toward the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche during a Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercise as part of Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2014. U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery.

Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda Emery

“Set Flight Quarters Condition One” blares through the loud speakers of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche as crewmembers cease any present happenings and hustle to their ready positions. A helicopter circles overhead in preparation to land but this particular helicopter is not Coast Guard orange. It does not even bare a U.S flag. As it lowers onto the flight deck of the cutter Waesche, the prominent red circle of the Japanese flag stands out on its frame.

Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and six submarines, about 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in Rim of the Pacific 2014 exercise from June 26 to August 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea-lanes and security on the world’s oceans.

With RIMPAC’s sea phase well into its first week, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche, serving as the Combined Task Force 175 commander, has led vessels from the People’s Republic of China, Brunei, Mexico, France, New Zealand, and the U.S. through numerous multinational exercises, including ship handling, boarding exercises, replenishment at sea, and a live-fire gunnery exercise.

A boarding team from the People's Liberation Army (Navy) Haikou (DD 171) makes way toward the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche during a Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercise U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery.

A boarding team from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Haikou (DD 171) makes way toward the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche during a Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercise U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery.

“The events we have participated in allow us to exercise functions we often train for, but rarely on this scale or with the particular nations involved with RIMPAC, and that is what makes this opportunity so remarkable,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Lukowiak, an operations specialist aboard the Waesche. “From counter-piracy to tactical maneuvering to gunnery exercises, we are gaining familiarity and learning best practices that will prove very valuable during future joint operations with the Navy or foreign partners.”

In addition to working as the CTF 175 commander, the first week of the sea phase had the cutter Waesche joining forces with CTF 178, a Japanese-led task force, for a two-day Mass Casualty and Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX), in conjunction with the Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HA/DR) exercises of RIMPAC.

The first day of the SAREX had Waesche crews working simultaneously with aircrews from the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force Hyuga-class helicopter destroyer Ise (DDH 182) during a simulated rescue of three individuals in a life raft that had washed out to sea.

Day two of the SAREX furthered the rescue scenarios in which two of cutter Waesche’s small boat crews evacuate rescued individuals to Pearl Harbor for medical attention.

A boarding team member from the People's Liberation Army (Navy) Haikou (DD 171) climbs the jacob's ladder of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche during a Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercise as part of Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2014. U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery.

A boarding team member from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Haikou (DD 171) climbs the jacob’s ladder of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche during a Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercise as part of Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2014. U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery.

“I am so grateful I got the opportunity to interact with other countries like New Zealand, China and Japan for the mass casualty exercise,” said Cadet First Class Lauren Cefali, a Coast Guard Academy cadet temporarily aboard the Waesche and a simulated victim during the SAREX. “Flying in the Japanese helicopter through Pearl Harbor was a once in a lifetime experience and I can’t believe I got to see this all as a cadet.”

The end of the first week of the RIMPAC sea phase brought the cutter Waesche back to its role in CTF 175 where they conducted a Maritime Interdiction Operation Exercise involving the Chinese Navy.

The scenario, a mock boarding of a merchant vessel, utilized the Cutter Waesche as a boarding platform, and included Waesche crew members as role players for the scenario. The People’s Republic of China, People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Yueyang (FF 575), one of the warships participating in the exercise, sent a boarding team to examine the ship and proceed through a simulated boarding, which involved checking documents and paperwork, examining cargo, and conducting a safety sweep of the outer areas of the ship.

“From the perspective of the Task Force Commander, it is rewarding to see the units within the task force coming together to execute safe and successful exercises,” said Capt. John McKinley, the commanding officer of cutter Waesche and commander of Task Force 175. “The first week of the underway phase has been incredibly busy, but the dedication and hard work of each ship and crew in the Task Force has proved invaluable to promoting interoperability amongst the participating nations.

“Seeing all the different countries in the area and working so closely with them is such a unique opportunity because normally we don’t get to work in an environment with so many different nations,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Dennis Phillips, a boatswain’s mate aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche. “Being able to participate and also observe the different ways that the countries execute the same evolutions that we do; for example, smallboat operations or how they conduct boardings, is a once in a lifetime experience.”

Rear Adm. Cari B. Thomas, the commander of the 14th Coast Guard District, visits the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche during Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2014. U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery.

Rear Adm. Cari B. Thomas, the commander of the 14th Coast Guard District, visits the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche during Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2014. U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery.

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