Without a doubt, I would say that the best parts of the Coast Guard Academy experience are the summers, when we can go out to the operational Coast Guard and serve on the front-lines. While Swab Summer was fun (in its own way), I enjoyed being in warm, sunny Texas more. During my 3/c summer, I spent five weeks at Station Port O’Connor, Texas. While there, two great things happened: I participated in a high-interest vessel (HIV) boarding, and received my OC (oleo capsicum, aka pepper spray) certification. The HIV boarding allowed me to see more of what role the Coast Guard has in maritime law enforcement and counterterrorism, while my pepper-spraying experience taught me just how much it hurts to be sprayed.
Within a week after my arrival in Port O’Connor, my station received orders from our controllers at Sector Corpus Christi to board a tanker vessel before it entered port. The vessel’s name appeared on Coast Guard watch lists because it had recently left Venezuela. So, we boarded our 41 foot utility boat (UTB) and headed out past the barrier islands to the deep-water anchorage to inspect this vessel. The boarding team was fully suited and armed for this evolution—it is better to be “Semper Paratus” than not. I was nervous because I saw all the crew carrying pistols and an M-16. Additionally, it was my first time wearing body armor!
The closer we got to the ship, the more nervous I became: the tanker was huge compared to our tiny boat, and the crew was armed, like they were expecting a pitched gun battle. Needless to say, my experience was NOT that dramatic. Once we climbed aboard, one team swept the ship, while the boarding officer, another crewman, and myself interviewed the ship’s officers and men in their lounge. We checked passports and tried to ascertain more information about the ship by talking to them; however, we ran into minor difficulties because half the crew was Filipino, the other half was Chinese, and none of them could speak English well! Trying to communicate with these men gave me a taste for what a future law enforcement career could be like. The conversation we had—about the haircut schedule at sea—was one of the most awkward I have ever had. I think the body armor and weapons intimidated the poor captain of the tanker.
I enjoyed the twenty minutes that I had aboard the tanker, shadowing Coast Guardsmen while they secured our maritime domain. Don’t worry: the ship was safe, and was allowed to enter port. After we disembarked, the boarding crew on my boat decided to chase down a fishing boat for inspection. Of course, we pick the one whose crew also doesn’t speak English. We only managed to stop them after cutting across their bow with our blue lights flashing! Once again, no discrepancies found. While it seems exciting, law enforcement is a lot of boring routine.
Being So Tactical...(Continued)
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