In the Zone: U.S. military, partner nations test capabilities in Eastern Pacific
Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse
The U.S. Coast Guard, federal agency partners and Guatemala Navy Special Forces conducted a full scale exercise in the Eastern Pacific Ocean Feb. 26, 2015 to promote partner nation cooperation, exercise bilateral agreements and establish command and control communications.
The exercise was hosted aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell, a 378-foot high endurance cutter with a crew of about 160 people homeported in Naval Base San Diego. During deployments, crew’s like the Boutwell’s often use the opportunity to foster interagency and international partnerships.
“During the drill, we simulated a case involving the interdiction of a go-fast vessel involving both U.S. and Guatemalan forces so we can exercise our bilateral agreements,” said Lt. j.g. Gene Storer, weapons officer aboard the Boutwell. “Essentially the entire purpose of the drill is to ensure our communications are viable, so when the real-life situation happens, we don’t have multiple agencies arriving on scene possibly injuring one another.”
Through unity of effort, the Coast Guard along with its federal and international partners provide enhanced international maritime law enforcement capabilities enabling greater safety, security and economic success. Where Coast Guard crews patrol, the rule of law follows.
“Training like this has a lot of benefits because we share the same goals – to stop the drug dealers,” said Lester Josue Melgar Mayorga, officer in charge of Guatemala Special Forces, and Boutwell’s ship rider during the exercise. “We can learn from you as you can from us.”
U.S. military, law enforcement agencies and regional partner-nation law enforcement agencies patrol the waters in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Pacific on a year-round basis in an effort to detect, monitor and interdict illicit traffickers.
“This exercise demonstrated an outstanding ability to react and respond in an effective manner during a joint counter narcotic real life scenario,” said Capt. Edward Westfall, commanding officer of Boutwell. “We were pleased with the outstanding cooperation at all levels between the Coast Guard, the Guatemalan Navy, Navy Seals and JIATF South. The agencies involved achieved all exercise goals and developed several best practices to further improve incident response capability in the region.”
Illicit trafficking networks are a threat to the stability of Latin America and the Caribbean and to U.S. public health and national security. Well-resourced organized crime groups move drugs, weapons, counterfeit items, money and people on these networks. This insidious web of crime threatens citizen security, undermines basic human rights, cripples the rule of law through corruption, erodes good governance, and hinders economic development. The U.S. Coast Guard works with federal agencies and international partners in the region to counter these threats.
Cutters like Boutwell routinely conduct operations from South America to the Bering Sea conducting alien migrant interdiction operations, domestic fisheries protection, search and rescue, counter-narcotics and other Coast Guard missions at great distances from shore keeping threats far from the U.S. mainland.