In the Zone: Unity of Effort
Written by Chief Petty Officer Luke Pinneo
Stepping aboard an unfamiliar ship for the first time can be overwhelming. But, a ship is a ship, and sailors are sailors, used to quickly adapting regardless of the vessel. On January 20, 2015, three khaki-clad Mexican Naval officers came on board the 418-foot Coast Guard Cutter Waesche, arguably the most advanced and mission capable cutter in the fleet, and were quickly made to feel at home.
The three officers visiting Waesche during a port call in Huatulco, Mexico, participated in an exchange of expertise with the cutter’s gunnery division about the Waesche’s Mk110 57mm gun.
The gunner’s mates shared dozens of Mk110 PowerPoint slides and detailed diagrams with their guests, and gave them a close look inside their own Mk110, Waesche’s main offensive weapon capable of firing 220 rounds per minute.
As is typical, the Waesche crew was excited to share their wealth of knowledge with an international partner, and the visiting officers were eager to receive it.
Much of the discussion, aided by Waesche’s translator, was mechanical and electrical in nature. From the U.S. crew’s perspective, successful weapons management hinges on conducting regularly scheduled maintenance and starting small when troubleshooting.
During the exchange, one officer described a hydraulic pressure problem they experienced with their gun and asked the Coast Guard crew if taking it apart is advisable.
Instead, Senior Chief Petty Officer Laurie Kennedy, the leading gunner’s mate aboard Waesche, thought it was most likely air in the system and suggested they simply try bleeding the line first.
“Instead of going straight to the whole system, we start with subsystems first,” she said.
She said working on any weapons system is challenging, and in her experience, big problems are often solved with simple fixes.
“Start small, and then work up as needed,” she said.
It was a mutually beneficial exchange for both countries, each with similar maritime security goals. Presently, both have vested interests in disrupting stateless, transnational organized crime networks that deal in drugs, illegal weapons, and human trafficking by sea. In this fight, both countries seek to bolster their assets, educate their crews, and strengthen their ties with neighboring countries.
After all, it takes a network to fight a network – and when it comes to thwarting international criminals at sea, the U.S. Coast Guard and Mexican Navy mesh together expertly.