The U.S. Coast Guard, Guam Fire Rescue, Guam Police Department, and the U.S. Navy conducted a successful search and rescue exercise (SAREX) in Guam, Aug. 10 – 11.
“This is one of the first operational exercises we’ve done since COVID, and the purpose is to work through our procedures. We have a lot of different agencies involved, and this is bringing those all together in coordination to respond to an incident,” said Lt. Henry Dunphy, the emergency management and force readiness chief for U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. “Today’s exercise was very successful, and it was a good chance to get back out in the field and really renew some of those partnerships and coordination we have here in Guam.”
The team coordinated response to an overdue kayak off Tumon Bay and practiced search patterns and helicopter hosts. The exercise lasted two days, including planning, safety, and communication meetings in a Wednesday tabletop portion.
“Today’s exercise was outstanding working along other first responders during a SAR mission,” said Sgt. I Carl Cruz, operations division Guam Police Department. “GPD accomplished our objectives and identified a few issues to be addressed such as interoperability amongst our radio communications, and the link between the federal agencies and our dispatch, and more quarterly training. Thank you for a wonderful and knowledgeable training experience.”
This event also included a presentation and subject matter exchange with a U.S. Coast Guard aviation survival technician visiting from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point in Hawaii. Anyone in Tumon Bay on Thursday is likely to have witnessed multiple vessels, jet skis, and a U.S. Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Two-Five’s MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter conducting multiple hoists from boats and the water.
“Here, we get a lot of calls, and we work very closely with our partners here on island. We cover everything from inland to on the water, off the ships, and medevacs out of Saipan, said Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffery Jorgensen, a naval aircrewman (helicopter) with HSC-25. “This is a great exercise for all of us and a great cooperation.”
The team established an Incident Command Post near Matapang Beach and worked through the process of notifications Thursday to simulate an actual response and test processes.
“This is a one Guam effort. We have a great partnership. We are happy to lend our assistance. Our role in this exercise is to lend support to the Coast Guard and responding agencies,” said Chief Daniel Stone, Guam Fire Rescue. “We are response by nature. That is the business we are in and so any time we are called out to respond we are ready to go.”
Assets involved in this year’s SAREX were:
• Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam Joint Sub-Center Center and response personnel
• USCGC Frederick Hatch (WPC 1143) and crew
• Coast Guard Station Apra Harbor 45-foot Response Boat-Medium and crew
• Guam Fire Rescue boat and crew
• Guam Police Department personnel
• Naval Base Guam Fire and Emergency Services
• U.S. Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Two-Five MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter and crew
Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam holds SAREXs in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Compact of Free Association States. They evaluate notification and response procedures and identify shortfalls in communication and coordination of response during SAR incidents. Each agency holds individual capabilities that complement each other’s efforts and bolsters the overall success of the SAR system.
The U.S. Coast Guard encourages all waterway users always to carry adequate supplies, multiple means of communication, an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon or PLB, and to leave word with friends or family when headed out on the water.