JCOC Wraps Up Trip with Coast Guard in Hawaii
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2007 The Joint Civilian Orientation Conference wrapped up its week-long trip Nov. 10 across the U.S. Pacific Command back in Hawaii with an overview of the U.S. Coast Guard, its missions and capabilities.
Following an all-night flight from Japan aboard the C-17 that had served as the group’s shuttle from country to country, participants hit the ground running boarding U.S. Coast Guard cutters and talking to coast guardsmen from Honolulu’s 14th District.
Responsible for more than 12 million square miles of the central Pacific Ocean -- an area more than two and a half times larger than the continental United States –- the Coast Guard’s mission there impressed the participants. Many thought of the Coast Guard only in the context of border patrol or search and rescue but never considered its national defense and many other missions.
Paul Anderson, the senior advisor to the Governor of Minnesota, said he never really considered a job in the Coast Guard as dangerous before. He was most impressed with the risks taken while boarding other vessels for inspections of crew and cargo.
“I was overly impressed with their mission, and the same commitment and devotion that these (sailors) put into their jobs just as all the other branches of the military,” Anderson said. “The significant danger they encounter on a daily basis while doing these boardings, and also the other missions such as buoy maintenance … it’s very important.”
During day, the group toured the harbor across from the Integrated Support Command’s Sand Island in a small coast guard vessel. One crew demonstrated lifting the large buoys from the sea to the deck for cleaning and repair. To cap the day, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer jumped from a hovering helicopter into the sea to rescue a mock drowning victim. The swimmer and the “victim” were picked up by a waiting rescue vessel.
“I have gained such an additional respect for these young incredible men and women who serve all of us,” Anderson said. “You come in knowing how mature they are, but then you see it first hand and you’ve got these 18 to 22 year olds … just mature beyond their years handling equipment that the taxpayers have put millions and billions of dollars into and they do it with the utmost integrity, loyalty and precision. It’s just awesome.”
Anderson said he didn’t mind making the time to break away from his typically busy schedule at the governor’s office to attend the JCOC.
“It really wasn’t a sacrifice when I get to look at what these folks are doing. I think (it’s worth it for) the ability to go face to face and thank them for their service and their sacrifice on a daily basis,” he said. “We have comfortable homes, we have comfortable living environments and we do our jobs. But in the end we can’t have the lifestyle we do without them doing what they’re doing on a daily basis.”
On the last leg of the trip, Anderson said its benefits were almost immeasurable. And he will be taking home a lot more than souvenir tee shirts and hats.
“I’m taking home with me a renewed commitment to be an advocate for them,” Anderson said. “Not about necessarily the war, but the mission they’re on and the jobs they do and their need for resources and the need for appreciation and thanks.”
Elizabeth Milias, the special assistant to the assistant Defense Secretary for Public Affairs asked that the participants return home and tell the story of their experiences on the trip.
“Never forget the power of story telling. You all are here because of your spheres of influence. You have wonderful community outreach. And to go home and share your stories -- that itself fundamentally helps our troops and our military,” Milias said.