Civilian Leaders Learn About Marine, Coast Guard Capabilities
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
HONOLULU, Hawaii, Sept. 18, 2004 Civilian opinion leaders visiting here from throughout the United States got a firsthand look at the level of marksmanship skill U.S. Marines are using in Iraq and safeguards the Coast Guard is taking to help protect the homeland.
Participants in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference
learn about Coast Guard search-and-rescue operations at Sand Island, Hawaii,
Sept. 17, 2004. Photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The business, academic, local-government and civic leaders are participants in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, a Defense Department program designed to expose civilians with little or no military experience to the operations of the armed forces.
Today's visits with members of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard rounded out a weeklong itinerary that also included visits with Army, Navy and Air Force units throughout the Pacific.
At Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Col. Richard Roten, deputy commander, said he hoped to show the group examples of the "spirit and pride and esprit de corps that comes from being a Marine." These attributes, he said, "pay a tremendous dividend in combat" and "set the Marine Corps apart" from its sister services.
Roten said high-tech equipment and technology goes a long way toward building the military's capabilities. "But in the end, our biggest and most important product is the United States Marine," he said.
Master Sgt. John Sterling, noncommissioned officer in charge of the base's Kaneohe Bay Rifle Training Facility, told the group an Army general was once asked what the most lethal weapon was in the U.S. arsenal. "And he said it was a U.S. Marine," Sterling said.
At Kaneohe Bay Rifle Training Facility, tucked inside Ulupau Crater and overlooking beautiful Kaneohe Bay, the civilian visitors got a peek at that capability as Chief Warrant Officer 4 Carroll Duncan explained the annual weapons qualification requirements he said help keep Marines in top fighting form.
"This is our bread and butter," he said.
The civilian leaders tried their hands at firing the M9 Beretta and M16A2 rifle, then watched a demonstration of the Marines' martial arts program that incorporates karate, akido, tae kwan do, boxing and juijitsu. "It definitely pushes you to your limits," said Sgt. Robert Mendoza, a martial arts instructor.
Cpl. George Lewis, an infantryman who served in Iraq from February to June 2003, told group members the marksmanship skills taught at Kaneohe Bay and at other ranges throughout the Marine Corps have a valuable payoff in combat. "You never really know what you're going into, but this training gives you the confidence you need in yourself and your weapon," he said.
Later in the day, the group visited Sand Island to observe multiple missions being carried out by the 14th Coast Guard District. "Whether you are from the heartland or a coastal state, I think you will be surprised by the portfolio of our missions," Rear Adm. Charles Wurster, district commander, told the civilians.
Group members got demonstrations of two of the Coast Guard's primary missions: its historic search-and-rescue mission and the homeland-security mission that has become increasingly important since Sept. 11, 2001.
"Our role in national defense has broadened on national and international fronts," Wurster said, pointing out that the Coast Guard is helping fight the war on terror not only in U.S. waters, but also in Iraq and elsewhere in the world.
Capt. Chad Cooper, operations officer for the Maritime Safety and Security Team deployed here from Los Angeles, said the Coast Guard has experienced "a very marked increase in security duties" since the terrorist attacks on the United States.
But in addition to responding to security threats and conducting search-and- rescue missions throughout the Pacific, Wurster said the 14th Coast Guard District remains committed to its other missions. These, he said, range from responding to environmental disasters to maintaining aids to navigation to enforcing maritime law.
Wurster said he was excited about the opportunity to show civilian leaders what today's Coast Guard is doing. "The Joint Civilian Orientation Conference is a great way for us to communicate the capabilities and responsibilities of your Coast Guard," he said.
"The Coast Guard has a long tradition of honor, respect and devotion to duty," he said. "Our people serve because they want to make a difference, and they are keeping a vigilant watch."