HONOLULU, Hawaii -- The U.S. Coast Guard and Royal New Zealand Navy took time in early August to conduct professional exchanges while off Samoa and in American Samoa.
"New Zealand is a steadfast and key partner with significant operational expertise and strong identity as a Pacific nation. The U.S. Coast Guard benefits from combined operations and exchanges like this one, reinforcing that we are part of the same extended family, or aiga as they say in Samoa. We continue to work closely together-along with Australia and other allies-to partner with other Pacific Island Countries to help them strengthen their sovereignty and maritime security," said Rear Adm. Lunday, commander, Coast Guard 14th District.
These crews embodied the Samoa and American Samoa principle of Fa'a Samoa (the Samoan Way) - where family is all-important, respect of elders is strictly adhered to, and being of service to your family is your duty. Fa'a Samoa is an integral part of Samoan life, evident in the time-honored traditions, warm hospitality, as well as the cultural practices and customs of the Samoan people.
"The rendezvous between the U.S. Coast Guard and Royal New Zealand Navy assets is always a special experience for us. It highlights our partnership in the Pacific, enhances core mariner skills, and is a demonstration of our mutual commitment to the people of the Pacific. Working with both U.S. Coast Guard units provided Otago an excellent training and interaction opportunity," said Lt. Cmdr. Ben Martin, commanding officer of Otago. "On a personal note, I really enjoyed meeting our Coast Guard colleagues and particularly noted their professionalism and dedication to duty, thank you to them for their service in this area of responsibility."
The commands from USCGC Walnut (WLB 205) and USCGC Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) spent time with peers from HMNZ Otago (P148) discussing the mission, challenges and comparing shipboard life in the region.
"The exchange with the Otago was a great opportunity to share best practices and hear their knowledge of this area including Samoa and the high-seas pocket that we do not frequently patrol," said Lt. James Provost, commanding officer of Joseph Gerczak. "It was a great experience to see how another nation's navy operates and the similarities and differences between us."
Otago is a Protector-Class off-shore patrol vessel in service with the Royal New Zealand Navy. Walnut is a 225-foot seagoing buoy tender focused on fisheries and aids-to-navigation in the region. Joseph Gerczak is the 26th Sentinel-class cutter built for the United States Coast Guard. It will be the second of the three of in the class to be homeported in Honolulu.
"The Charge d'Affaires from U.S. Embassy in Samoa also rode Otago out to sea and was transferred to Walnut while underway via Otago's small boat," said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Jasnoch, commanding officer of Walnut. "I think we all acknowledge the benefits of being able to conduct an at-sea interaction, promoting the ship-handling and maneuvering abilities of both crews."
All three ships crews are in the region combating illegal fishing, a part of promoting maritime governance and rules-based international order essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. Coast Guard employs 11 bilateral shiprider agreements with Pacific Island Forum nations to help them ensure their resource security and maritime sovereignty. The U.S. Coast Guard crews are engaged in Operation Aiga to support the Government of Samoa and regional partners by providing patrol coverage in Samoa's exclusive economic zone as they transition their patrol assets from their Australian Pacific Patrol Boat to new highly-capable Australian Guardian Patrol Boat.
The U.S. and its allies are trusted partners in Oceania. Operation Aiga is one of several ongoing and recurring operations conducted by the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and France as part of the Pacific Quadrilateral Defence Coordination Group (Pacific QUAD) in support of Pacific Island Forum countries. The Pacific QUAD has historically supported Pacific Island Forum countries in their efforts to combat illegal, unregulated, and underreported fishing in their exclusive economic zones. This year, the Pacific QUAD expanded the scope of its activities to encompass the broad range of maritime security concerns expressed by the Pacific Island Forum in the 2018 Boe Declaration.