When Coast Guard Cmdr. Matthew Gans learned about a unique opportunity for he and a team of his of engineers to work aboard a Philippine navy ship for a few days, his eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas.
This was a chance to share knowledge with the crew aboard BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS 17), formerly USCGC Boutwell (WHEC 719), a 378-foot High Endurance Cutter.
Gans knew that the United States had decommissioned the ship in early 2016 and the Philippines acquired it under the Excess Defense Articles and the Foreign Assistance Act.
As the current engineer officer aboard Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752), a National Security Cutter out of Alameda, California, Gans was eager to call upon his 13 years of engineering experience aboard 378s.
Now in Puerto Princesa, Philippines, Stratton’s crew would work with Philippine navy and coast guard members the week of October 14-21, 2019, during Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama.
The military exercise, now in its third year, is designed to promote regional security cooperation, strengthen partnerships and enhance maritime interoperability.
Over the course of four days, Gans and his team of 15 Stratton engineers worked side by side with their Philippine counterparts, troubleshooting mechanical issues long common to the 378 fleet.
Electricians and machinery technicians resolved issues preventing the main gas turbines from starting, corrected hydraulic leaks, and chased down and corrected various complications with the main diesel engine. They demonstrated proper maintenance procedures and made recommendations to their Filipino counterparts based on Gans’ extensive experience.
“It was a pleasure to watch my crew systematically approach troubleshooting to identify and correct the long list of casualties,” said Gans. He said it was nice for some of his younger crew members to finally get to see what it was like to work on an older Coast Guard cutter.
“My crew used to poke fun at me for always relating my experiences back to 378-foot cutter life,” said Gans. “But since this experience they’ve been telling their peers how valuable the opportunity was and how much fun they had working on the Bonifacio.”
Stratton damage control members restored five out of six inoperable dewatering and fire pumps aboard the Bonifacio, which required a complete rebuild of two engines. They also provided extensive maintenance and firefighting training and tested firefighting systems aboard the cutter.
“This experience justified for me my insatiable desire to continue to return to sea, even after all these years,” said Gans. “Our friends in the Philippine navy who now own and operate the cutter are an amazing group of people and were the most gracious of hosts. They are extremely proud to have the Bonifacio in their inventory and have done their very best to continue to maintain and operate the ship. I hope we continue to have a strong Coast Guard presence in future exercises with the Philippines, and would enthusiastically advocate for a greater emphasis on these opportunities for sharing our engineering knowledge.”
The collaborative effort of the Bonifacio crew and Gans’ team from Stratton made up the Engineering Symposium component of the larger training exercise.
“Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama built on a decade’s long relationship between the United States and Philippines maritime services,” said Capt. Bob Little, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Stratton. “During Sama Sama, we exchanged knowledge that enhanced our skills and ability to work together. The engineering work aboard the Andres Bonifacio was only one component of the larger exercise, but perhaps the best opportunity for building strong personal relationships.”
The U.S. Coast Guard has an enduring role in the Indo-Pacific, going back more than 150 years. The service’s ongoing deployment of resources to the region directly supports U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives.
“The United States is a Pacific nation,” said Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area commander. “We have deep and long-standing ties with our partners in the region, and more importantly, we share a strong commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, governed by a rules-based international system that promotes peace, security, prosperity and sovereignty of all nations.”
As Gans and his crew hosted Andres Bonifacio crew members for a farewell visit and tour aboard cutter Stratton Oct. 20, he mentioned that this experience would have lasting impressions on Stratton’s engineers.
As he said goodbye and shook hands with his new Filipino friends that afternoon, it was clear Gans had made some impressions of his own.