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NEWS | Oct. 1, 2017

Partnership: Planning through Response and Recovery

By U.S. Coast Guard Captain John W. Reed, commander USCG Sector Charleston

On August 30, 2017, I had the great honor to relieve Captain Greg Stump and the privilege to assume command of Coast Guard Sector Charleston and its team of dedicated professionals.

 

As a new member of community, it is truly inspiring to witness the exceptional teamwork, cooperation and partnerships with our government and industry partners here in the Lowcounty. These relationships strengthen the safety and security of the region’s ports in extraordinary and often unseen ways.

 

The nation suffered catastrophic damage because of three devastating storms in recent months. The Coast Guard, including Sector Charleston, and other federal agencies are responding to the needs of those impacted in an “all hands on deck” fashion. Even today, numerous DOD and DHS assets and personnel from Charleston are currently deployed to provide critical humanitarian assistance, re-open maritime ports for critical supplies and coordinate restoration of the greater maritime transportation system.

 

What may be less well-known is the behind-the-scenes, everyday work involved in developing and strengthening partnerships which are critical to operational success and family readiness.

 

Well before a threat is at our door-steps, Sector Charleston’s Contingency Planning and Force Readiness staff reviews and exercises plans to prepare for a myriad of incidents, including scenarios such as severe weather, mass rescue and pollution response. Interagency exercises are conducted frequently to evaluate and improve our plans on the local and regional level.

 

In Charleston, we are also fortunate to host the SEAHAWK Interagency Operations Center, providing a crucial in-person conduit between federal, state and local partners on a range of maritime security, law enforcement, and intelligence issues. We also have a booming maritime industry. Our Prevention staff works closely with the industry to ensure vessels and facilities in the port are in compliance with safety, security and environmental standards.

 

During my first full week on the job, I witnessed these plans and partnerships play out in real-time as we prepared and responded to Hurricane Irma. As Captain of the Port, we had to balance the safety of the port and waterway with the need to facilitate maritime commerce; our region’s economic lifeblood. Leading up to a storm, our Waterways Management staff facilitated the Heavy Weather Advisory Group conference calls to discuss and communicate plans and concerns with a diverse population of maritime stakeholders.

 

Communication was and is essential. Our network of liaison officers helped us stay engaged with DOD, state and local officials for real-time situation updates on the storm’s ever-changing forecast, conditions and impact. At the forefront of my mind was the safety and accountability of our personnel and their families. Participation in the Joint Base’s Crisis Action Team conference calls contributed to the orderly evacuation of Coast Guard families residing on Joint Base Charleston. The Joint Base’s evacuation order was the model used for the evacuation of Sector Charleston units and dependents in other parts of South Carolina and Georgia.

 

The response to Irma in Charleston provided me with a superb introduction to many of our partners and instilled great confidence in our ability to work together toward a common goal. While our local area was not as significantly impacted as others, I know our preparation helped mitigate risk and contributed to its prompt recovery. I look forward to building upon our strong partnerships here in the Lowcounty.