We Turn Private Boat Owners into Private Boat Captains
Vincent Pica Chief of Staff, First District, Southern Region (D1SR) United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
USMMA state of the art ECDIS 3000
State of the Art: Ahead to the Future!
Of the many lessons that 9/11 taught, one certainly was that we are stronger when we work together than if we don’t.Jurisdictions, bureaucracies and in-fighting hurt us, not help us.So, when members of the USCG Auxiliary Flotilla 18-06 were invited by Captain George Sandberg of the United States Merchant Marine Academy as well as Center Moriches (and flotilla 18-06) to train on the USMMA’s state of the art ECDIS-3000 simulator, it exemplified the inter-operability of the maritime services and made real the sentiment that no one is better than all of us.
Captain George Sandberg and Commander Christian Hempstead (the computer guru parexcellence of the USMMA) fired up a real world scenario for the (lucky!) 13 Auxiliarists who mustered for training at 1pm on February 3rd.It was a Code Red day in New York…
This author was skipper of an USCG 108' patrol vessel acting as CO and on scene commander directing and dispatching facilities.The balance of the Auxiliarists were placed on six 25’ Fast Patrol Boats under the command of the 108’er.The vessels were fully equipped – powerful engines, electronic packages including radar, Global Position System, Automated Identification System (AIS is becoming for boats what transponder are for planes) and digital communications.
Commander Hempstead and Captain Sandberg acted as the shore based USCG Captain of the Port and VTS (Vessel Traffic Service – the traffic cop of New York Harbor).
The USCG Captain of the Port issued the skipper of the 108’er the orders:
1. Patrol East River paying special attention to the UN and all bridges. 2. Patrol North River paying special attention to "Intrepid" 3. Patrol New Jersey shore, Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island 4. Patrol The Kills. 5. Patrol Upper Bay - Staten Island - Brooklyn, Verrazzano Bridge. 6. Provide escort service for Staten Island Ferry. 7. Provide escort for outbound passenger vessel. 8. Respond to emergencies, mayday, overdue search etc.
The boats were dispatched to various locations while the 108’er plied up and down the Hudson to “see and be seen”, a key USCG strategy.Then the fun, as it were, began…
The simulator, under the control ofCommander Hempstead, with input from Captain Sandberg, started throwing scenarios at the combined fleet.
Reports of vandals defacing the Little Red Lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge…Sortie a fast patrol boat up there from the Intrepid duty and replace that boat with one from the Battery.Sail boat reported late coming in… sortie a boat into the Ambrose Channel to scout…Get another 25’ under the the Verrazano Bridge to inspect a commercial freighter not responding to VTS radio hailing…Then the blizzard started – and then a cargo freighter in the Bayonne Channel went afire and the crew started jumping overboard to avoid the flames…25’er’s scrambling down from the East River doing duty under the UN to assist in the rescue of merchant seamen in the water!
Frankly, the crews (noted below) did exceptionally well.Why?Partly, the scenarios were realistic and thrown at us over the course of 2 hours.Mostly, USCG Forces – regulars, reservists and auxiliarists jointly – train together on the water and in the classroom whenever possible and feasible.And we are well trained to be a “force multiplier” for the regulars – the active-duty professionals who put it on the line every day, somewhere.
The members of the fleet, operating 7 “sim” boats were:Barbara Bedell of East Quogue, Louis Chrisomalis of Westhampton Beach, Anthony Frontino, Fred Furnell and George Nelson of Shirley, Kevin Osterbery of Center Moriches, Rudi and Vincent Pica of Westhampton, Marion and Greg Sarafin of Center Moriches, Al Scherback of Mastic Beach, Joe Tarlentino of Moriches and Ed Tordahl of Mastic.Six 25’ Fast Patrol boats and a 108’ USCG cutter is a lot of firepower, computer power and (wo)man power!
Was it fun? Absolutely. Was it sobering to think about what we were training for. Absolutely. Is it necessary? 1,000% absolutely. “They” have to be lucky, just once. We have to be perfect everyday.
BTW, if you are interested in being part of USCG Forces, email me at JoinUSCGAux@aol.comor go direct to the D1SR Human Resources department, who are in charge of new members matters, at DSO-HR and we will help you “get in this thing…”
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