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NEWS | March 28, 2023

U.S. Coast Guard Serves Partners in Commonwealth of Northern Marianas

By Chief Warrant Officer Sara Muir U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam

SANTA RITA, Guam -- The crew of USCGC Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) returned to Guam on March 20, 2023, following a three-week deployment to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands as part of the ongoing Operation Rematau.

During the patrol, the crew aided U.S. Government partners and conducted and supported five Coast Guard missions, including search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, living marine resource protection, aids to navigation, and ports, waterways, and coastal security.

To kick off the patrol, the crew transferred personnel and equipment from Maritime Safety and Security Teams Honolulu and Seattle for a surge operation in the vicinity of Saipan. The cutter crew provided weapons, area familiarization, additional boarding team personnel, and small boat support for two weeks. The MSSTs conducted a boating safety operation to ensure compliance with federal and local requirements. They also provided support and a search and rescue stand-by during the 4th Annual Wahoo in the Marianas Derby.

"Our crew worked to overcome logistical challenges by providing the cutter as a mobile armory and small boat staging area for our MSST shipmates, enabling their effort and ensuring weapons, ammunition, and the small boat remained secure when not in use,” said Lt. Jalle Merritt, commanding officer of Myrtle Hazard. “It’s great to be up in the CNMI and to provide these services to enhance boating safety and aid our local partners. We thank the people of Saipan for their hospitality during our stay."

The cutter crew also supported local agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency and Navy Criminal Investigations Service by coordinating and completing a substantial transfer of ammunition, a required tool for the agents. Ammunition is costly and difficult to ship due to its weight and status as a hazardous item. The cutter is outfitted with an armory allowing them to safely and rapidly transport this tool adhering to government guidelines.

The team also enabled an aid to navigation mission in Rota. The team provided transportation and use of a small boat to four members of the USCGC Sequoia (WLB 215) to conduct repairs to a range day board and complete general inspections and maintenance.

“We don’t often get to say a Fast Response Cutter did aids to navigation,” said Merritt. “We were pleased to assist the team from Sequoia to conduct this activity which safeguards mariners while their ship is at its Midlife Maintenance Availability on the East Coast.”

Most notably, the crew participated in their second major search and rescue case in as many months. They spent nearly three days as part of the team searching for a free diver who was spearfishing near Blue Hole off Guam. Responders conducted 24 searches over 70 hours, covering over 1,302 square nautical miles before the Service suspended the active search.

"It’s never easy to accept this kind of outcome to a search and rescue case. That and the weather conditions take a toll on the crew, but we trust our efforts can give the family some small measure of comfort as they grieve for their loved one,” said Merritt. “We appreciate the support of all the partners who worked this case and our Coast Guard aviation colleagues.”

During the patrol, the crew overcame several maintenance issues, including a problem with the sea strainers, which filter the water used to cool the ship’s engines. They also required a replacement hydraulic hose for the winch used to move the small boat. The MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew deployed to Guam was invaluable in transporting that replacement part on short notice from Guam to Saipan.

Operation Rematau is how U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam supports the overarching Coast Guard endeavor Operation Blue Pacific to promote security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania. Rematau means people of the deep sea. It recognizes the wisdom of the Pacific Island Forum leaders in that securing the future requires long-term vision and a carefully considered regional strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. Op Rematau reinforces U.S. commitment to working together to advance Pacific regionalism based on the Blue Pacific narrative. This action supports U.S. national security objectives, bolstering regional maritime governance and security.

The Myrtle Hazard is the 39th 154-foot Sentinel-class fast response cutter named for the first enlisted woman, an electrician, and radio operator, in the U.S. Coast Guard. They homeport in Guam, working for U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam, which comprises nearly 300 personnel and provides a significant portion of the U.S. Coast Guard’s enduring regional presence in Oceania.

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