Maritime training forges partnership between National Guard and U.S. Coast Guard in Florida
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2010) — A recent training exercise in Northeast Florida involving the Florida National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard could be the beginning of a lifesaving partnership along Florida’s coastline.
On March 10, members of the Florida National Guard’s 44th Civil Support Team (CST) traveled to the U.S. Coast Guard Station Mayport near Jacksonville and spent the afternoon training and exchanging information with personnel at the station. Members of the 44th – all experts in the detection of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials – briefed the Coast Guard on their civil support team mission and what to expect if they discovered a ship was contaminated with chemical agents. The Coast Guard in turn instructed the 44th members on techniques for boarding maritime vessels.
According to Commander of the 44th Civil Support Team Maj. Michael Ladd, the joint training exercise was just the start of an important professional partnership between the two agencies.
“We see this as the beginning of a much more robust relationship,” Ladd explained. “This is just at the tactical level at this point; we’re going over how we would get our detection equipment and our experts on board (a ship) to do that detection mission.”
Training the 44th CST in maritime operations is important since Florida has an extensive coastline of more than 1,100 miles, and Ladd said they need to be prepared for any missions which could involve a chemical or terrorist threat.
“With as much Florida coastline as we’ve got, it doesn’t take too much imaginative thinking to think up a scenario where this may apply,” he added.
Throughout the afternoon the Guardsmen practiced boarding techniques of several different Coast Guard ships, from small inflatable rafts to a 175-foot cutter.
Lt. Cmdr. Mark Kuperman, Incident Division Management chief for U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, said the purpose of the boarding training was to give the CST members a sense of how to move themselves and their detection equipment from one ship to another while at sea or in the river.
“They need to be able to operate in that maritime environment,” he said. “…If they can do it with our ships that are smaller, they won’t have a problem doing it on a larger vessel.”
Kuperman, who observed all the training and offered his expertise on maritime operations to the CST, said he hoped the exercise would continue to foster a strong relationship between the National Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“The ability that the 44th Civil Support Team brings is not just as a National Guard component, but they are also linked into the state of Florida,” he said. “So for an emergency response organization like the U.S. Coast Guard this brings a tremendous amount of versatility in that we’re able to tie in to both state and federal partnerships simultaneously in working with the 44th Civil Support Team.”
Boatswain’s Mate Justin Pickler, who delivered the 44th CST Soldiers by boat to the larger ships at the Coast Guard station, said it was just a good opportunity for his team to meet the civil support team and learn about their mission.
“It’s always nice training with other agencies,” Pickler said. “(We see) how they do things on their side of the house, and they see how we do things on our side of the house.”