Two tactically-loaded U.S. Army Zodiac rigid-hulled inflatable boats disappeared into the jagged backdrop and shadows of the cliffside that towers over the massive expanse of the Pacific Ocean on a special reconnaissance mission to recover a high-value target.
Using various tools and a high level of training, nine Army Green Berets and three communications specialists made a beach landing and stormed Camp Rilea, an Oregon Army National Guard Training Center in Warrenton, Oregon.
A few miles offshore, the Coast Guard Cutter Fir, a 225-foot seagoing buoy tender, transited in the same direction as the Zodiacs, keeping a close eye on their sister servicemembers, being careful not to impede the mission, but still ensure the safety of the 10th Special Forces Group.
Soldiers from the U.S. Army 10th Special Forces Group, out of Army Base Fort Carson, Colo., prepare their Zodiac rigid-hulled inflatable boats for deployment while aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Fir, a 225-foot Sea-going Buoy Tender during transit off the northern coast of Oregon, June 22, 2016. The cutter supplied equipment storage and deployment during a joint-agency operation. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read)
“What we just completed makes a global impact,” said Chief Warrant Officer Scott Mooneyham, engineering officer of the Fir. “We used the knowledge, techniques and equipment that we use every day in aids to navigation to deploy U.S. Army Green Berets. This operation helped them train for something they may encounter overseas.”
A phone call originating from Army Base Fort Carson, Colorado, to the engineering officer aboard the Fir, got the ball rolling for a joint agency operational exercise. Because of its unique capabilities, the Fir was able to supply what the Green Berets needed for their culminating operation of a three-week, full-mission profile exercise.
“They asked for assistance with a multi-stage operation that I felt we were qualified for right away,” said Mooneyham. “I thought that the functionality of the operation fit well within our operational capabilities, so I routed the request to the commanding officer for approval.”
The Special Forces Group needed cargo space for their two Zodiac boats and outboard boat motors, a platform large enough to deploy to from the air and equipment to maneuver and launch the Zodiacs.
The Fir has heavy lift capabilities with a crane that can extend to 60 feet and lift up to 40,000 pounds. The buoys the crew normally services range in size from 13 feet tall and 5 feet wide to 35 feet tall and 9 feet wide and weigh up to 18,000 pounds. The crane, cargo hold and large buoy deck close to the waterline with a crew experienced in rigging on a seaway made the Fir an ideal platform.
“Anytime we can participate in an exercise with another government agency, it prepares us for any crises that may emerge due to natural disasters or homeland attacks,” said Cmdr. Kristen Serumgard, commanding officer of the Fir. “We started a relationship and were able to exchange mutual information and learn about each other's missions.”
This operational exercise with the Green Berets also gave the crewmembers aboard Fir an opportunity to train with air operators that share an area of responsibility.
“This was a first for me in working with the MH-60 Jayhawks, and a first for my most of my crew in any helicopter operations,” said Serumgard. “It was a great opportunity for my junior officers to work with, communicate with and coordinate with the pilots.”
A Zodiac, rigid-hulled inflatable boat, filled with six members of a U.S. Army special forces unit, out of Army Base Fort Carson, Colo., transits away from the Coast Guard Cutter Fir, a 225-foot Sea-going Buoy Tender, after the cutter's crew lowered the Zodiac into the Pacific Ocean near Warrenton, Ore., during a joint-agency operation, June 22, 201 (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read)
A Coast Guard Air Station Astoria aircrew transported the soldiers from Air Station Astoria, located in Warrenton, to the Fir where they individually lowered each one using the helicopters signature hoist capabilities.
“The goal in conducting this operation the way we did was to glean knowledge from our sister service while developing relationships with our maritime partners,” said U.S. Army Capt. Brandon*, team leader of 10th Special Forces Group. “We were able to learn and understand their capabilities, see how they work, and ultimately increase our interoperability in a maritime environment.”
The Army has the resources and capabilities to conduct an operation like this on their own, but the maritime knowledge and resources available from the U.S. Coast Guard is an important baseline understanding to have for future missions.
“The entire operation was an absolute success, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help a sister service complete a training exercise nine months in the making,” said Mooneyham. “The planning process was challenging, working around operational schedules and the communication gaps they create. I am grateful to say that the execution of the operation went very smooth. The execution was successful because of the professional competence and flexibility of both the special forces unit and the cutter crew.”
The Fir crew resumed their normal aids to navigation mission and the Green Berets made landfall and continued their overnight assault on Camp Rilea to gain control over the high-value target they were assigned to secure.
Though our sister service may have different missions, this cooperative exercise between the Coast Guard and Army demonstrated the global impact both services can make working together.
*Capt. Brandon's full identity is being withheld due to operational security measures.
By U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read
Provided through Coast Guard
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