SANTA RITA, Guam—In a bid to strengthen relationships and interoperability, the U.S. Coast Guard conducted a multilateral search and rescue drill alongside longtime partners from the United Kingdom, Japan, and the Republic of Palau in late July.
“We thrive on these opportunities, and we all came away with a deepened appreciation for the work of our respective agencies,” said Lt. Cmdr. Field Cassiano, Coast Guard liaison officer to the Compact of Free Association States. “Anyone who spends time in the Pacific is no stranger to the region’s vast distances and limited resources. Evolutions like this provide invaluable face-to-face interaction and enable us to work through challenges before an incident or crisis.”
Such events range from something akin to the search for Amelia Earhart to the far more common activity of a small skiff of fishers gone missing. It could also include a large-scale response for a disabled cruise ship or search and rescue of the crew of a commercial vessel like the car carrier Cougar Ace, which heeled over at sea before being towed into port in 2008.
In this drill, the USCGC Myrtle Hazard crew, with support from the U.S. Coast Guard 14th District and U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam, worked with the crews of the Palau Patrol Ship PPS Kedam, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ship JS Kirisame, and Royal Navy River Class vessel HMS Tamar.
“Thoughtful planning led to realistic scenarios that were positively challenging, which demanded teamwork, shared vision, and high-level navigational expertise,” said Lt. Jalle Merritt, commanding officer of USCGC Myrtle Hazard. “It is fully in the realm of possibility that our partners and we will be called upon to support those in need, in heavy weather, near reefs, with a limited time to respond. Through drills such as those conducted this week, our multinational maritime response team remains ready to not only meet but exceed the needs of those our team serves.”
With decades of experience and one of the largest maritime rescue regions in the world, the U.S. Coast Guard in the Pacific works together with partners and neighbors to provide life-saving coverage throughout the region. The United States maintains several formal agreements with partners under strict compliance with international laws and regulations. These agreements include Search and Rescue agreements with Japan, Australia, and the Republic of Palau, among other regional nations.
Historically, the U.S. Coast Guard and Palau hold regular search and rescue engagements to improve cooperation and processes between the Service and counterparts in Palau. This drill, one facet of Pacific Partnership 22, comes on the heels of a very successful humanitarian assistance and disaster relief workshop with 120 personnel trained.
Charles Maynard of the Royal Navy, serving as deputy mission commander of PP22, was on hand to oversee the exercise, part of PP22’s Palau phase.
The coordination between partner nations during PP22 enhanced understanding and cooperation and prepared those involved to respond in the case of a natural disaster or other humanitarian assistance and disaster relief scenario. Pacific Partnership contributes to regional stability and security through exchanges that foster enduring partnerships, trust, and interoperability between nations.
Now in its 17th year, Pacific Partnership is the most extensive annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific.
The Myrtle Hazard is the 39th Sentinel-class fast response cutter. The ship arrived in Guam and commissioned along with its sister ships, Oliver Henry and Frederick Hatch, in July 2021. In the time since, the crew has participated in Operation Blue Pacific, conducting sovereignty and fisheries patrols with five Pacific island nations. (USCG)