SANTA RITA, Guam -- The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) Completes crew completed a local patrol off Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands from Nov. 28 to Dec. 7, 2022, including the first-ever 154-foot Fast Response Cutter port visit to Tinian.
"Being able to take Oliver Henry into Tinian for a port visit was a surreal experience and the highlight of my career," said Lt. Freddy Hofschneider. "I am proud to represent all Micronesians who have served or are serving our Coast Guard honorably, including those of us from the CNMI. If you were to tell me 20 years ago that I'd be the captain of a Coast Guard cutter pulling into Tinian, I probably would've said there's no way. It speaks volumes to the incredible career opportunities the Coast Guard provides and that anything is possible, even if you're from a small Pacific Island community."
The objectives of this patrol included:
• Supporting Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu.
• Validating Tinian as a port of call for future U.S. Coast Guard ship visits.
• Conducting community engagements in CNMI.
During the patrol, Oliver Henry's crew assisted MSST Honolulu's boarding team in conducting law enforcement operations resulting in seven recreational safety boardings, four uninspected passenger vessel boardings, and two commercial passenger vessel boardings. The purpose of these boardings is safety to ensure the material condition of the vessels, the suitability and compliance of required equipment, and any required credentials. The team issued four warnings for safety infractions. The team went on to conduct interagency law enforcement operations with Tinian's Department of Public Safety – Boating Safety Division for two additional recreational safety boardings.
"It's important to build capacity smartly and leverage our interagency options when we can out here," said Capt. Nick Simmons, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. "The mission and our footprint continue to expand, as does the demand for U.S. Coast Guard support throughout Micronesia. As we work to be a preferred partner and a good neighbor, we are eager to work together to support regional safety and security."
The crew also teamed up with CNMI Customs & Biosecurity officers and Tinian DPS – BSD officers for two Subject Matter Expert Exchanges to share best practices and learn from each other. While in Saipan and Tinian, the crew held three community events, including hosting 68 students from the Tasi to Table Non-Profit Organization dedicated to engaging youth on fishing methodologies, boating safety, environmental stewardship, and supporting mental health and the Tinian Typhoon Sports Association.
"Engagements on these patrols provide an opportunity for relationship building and to deepen our understanding of partners and the challenges we face together," said Simmons. "It's different out here. We regularly send our teams hundreds if not thousands of miles as we seek to cover a 1.9 million square mile area of responsibility with some very austere locations and a lot of water in between. The only way to do that is working with our regional partners at the territory and international levels and with the Joint Force and interagency teams."
As the Service continues efforts to recruit new members, a final highlight was conducting a swearing-in ceremony for two new U.S. Coast Guard recruits and a follow-on familiarization ride aboard Oliver Henry from Saipan to Tinian.
"Our visit to Saipan and Tinian is part of our continued efforts to strengthen relationships and partner capacity with our fellow maritime agencies while promoting goodwill with the island communities - especially our youth. The crew thoroughly enjoyed visiting the islands and experiencing the warm hospitality," said Hofschneider.
The U.S. Coast Guard conducts routine deployments in Oceania as part of Operation Blue Pacific, working alongside Allies, building maritime domain awareness, and sharing best practices with partner nation navies and coast guards. Op Blue Pacific seeks to strengthen partnerships and execute a mission to support maritime governance and the rule of law in the region. To this, we must understand, measure, and articulate regional influences and relationships and provide our crews with the best operational assets and support to get the mission done safely and return.
The 154-foot Oliver Henry is the 40th Sentinel-class fast response cutter. The ship was commissioned along with its sister ships, Myrtle Hazard and Frederick Hatch, in Guam in July 2021. Since commissioning, the crew has participated in many operations, including an expeditionary patrol over 8,000 nautical miles throughout Oceania to Australia and back for Op Blue Pacific.