Tactical Training; the first line of defense

Tactical Coxswain Training

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - A 25-foot Response Boat Small (RB-S) from Coast Guard Station New Haven takes a turn at high speeds during tactical coxswain training in New Haven Harbor Oct. 12, 2011.

Written by Lt.j.g. Erin Maureen Dixon, Sector Long Island Sound

Members from Coast Guard Station New Haven, Conn., and Coast Guard Station Montauk, N.Y., recently teamed up for tactical coxswain training in New Haven Harbor.  A refresher for some and brand new to others, the training is a vital part of maintaining the stations’ readiness to perform the Coast Guard’s Homeland Security mission.

From shore, one could barely see the bright orange boats behind the sizeable plumes of water they were kicking up.  Moving at top speeds, the 25- and 45-foot response boats skimmed across the water in tandem. Although close enough to reach out and touch each other, the crews used a loudhailer to communicate over the roar of the engines and wind.

Practical application of this training required crews to simulate a threatening situation and appropriately respond. One of the boats played the role of a vessel breaching a security zone and the other boat acted as the Coast Guard to stop it. However, in order to stop the “threatening” boat, the Coast Guard needed to catch it, something that would require operating the response boats at their maximum capacity and pushing the men and women who drive those boats to their own personal limits.

“You’re in a Coast Guard security zone. Stop your vessel. I have important information to pass,” one crew ordered the next. The training mission was for homeland security, providing Coast Guard members experience guarding the waterways and communities along the shores of Connecticut and Long Island.

Tactical coxswains are instructed not to take their eyes off an opposing boat driver’s hands.  During high speed maneuvering in close quarters situations, watching a rival’s throttles and steering wheel allows for precise anticipation of their next move, a skill that may very well mean the difference between a successful mission and a horrific boating accident, or sometimes even between life and death.  Training, practice and repetition are the keys to safely conducting inherently dangerous tasks and vital to mission success.

“When we’re taking in the mooring lines is not the time to question your ability or your role. You just have to know it. This is the kind of stuff that has to come second nature, or you’ll be jeopardizing the safety of your teammates and the success of the mission,” said Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Sean Homan.

With all of Station New Haven present for the training, crewmembers were able to rotate through the various positions of gunner, crewman and coxswain.  The training relies heavily on communication, specifically between the crew and the coxswain, since the boat crew serves as an extra set of eyes while the coxswain focuses on closely following another boat.

“Tactical coxswain training is applicable to enforcing security zones and conducting safety escorts,” said Homan. “Training new members is just as important as keeping our previously qualified coxswains sharp and ready to respond to emergencies.”

“It’s great we could come down to participate with our counterparts in New Haven,” said Machinery Technician Second Class John Gonzalez of Station Montauk. “Cooperating with the other stations allows us to maximize our resources, plus we always have something to learn from each other.”

Ready for Training

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Beeker from Coast Guard Station New Haven requests a new headset from the support vessel during tactical coxswain training in New Haven Harbor Oct. 12, 2011.