What Is a Coast Guard Cutter Doing in Europe?

By Captain John E. Crowley, Jr., U.S. Coast Guard

"Malta was another country with limited resources that showed proficiency in traditional Coast Guard missions. While in Malta, the Legare was briefed and took part in a combined search-and-rescue exercise involving Maltese armed forces vessels and helicopters, Italian helicopters, and a U.S. Navy P-3.... For a country only 18 miles long, Malta has established a world-class coast guard organization."

The Legare was a role model for developing countries' maritime services, but her crew also continued the U.S. sea service tradition of being role models as concerned citizens of a democratic nation. Chief Boatswain's Mate Mark Reiger organized the Legare 's efforts in community relations.

"A true highlight of the Legare 's European deployment was the opportunity to conduct community relations work in several countries. Although this was anticipated in advance, what was not anticipated was the enormous response of the recipients. ...

"The first project took place in Lithuania, in Klaipeda's 'Rytas' children's home. The Legare 's crew delivered over a ton and a half of general and hygiene supplies provided through the Navy's Project Handclasp. The crew was met by a dozen of the children in traditional garb. After being introduced to local dances, the crew spent the next two days working around the orphanage.... In Casablanca, Morocco, crew members spent a day painting a classroom, repairing two computers, and showing members of the `Croissant Rouge,' their `Red Cross,' around the ship....

"The final project in Constanta, Romania, at "Casa Speranta" home for HIV-positive children, was the most rewarding. Although little work was accomplished due to rain, crew members spent the day playing and laughing with the 24 children living there. The sheer delight with which they were greeted set the tone for a day in which the children did their utmost to ‘wear out' their new-found friends....

"The success of community relations work in foreign ports cannot be measured in man-hours expended or rooms painted. Our only regret—if we had only known the need. If only we could have done more."

Our respect for the professional contributions that women make to our service initially was not identified as a focal point for the mission. Ensign Gina Nakahara, the Legare 's navigation division officer, collateral duty public affairs officer, was one of 16 seagoing female professionals on board the Legare .

"During my visits to the Eastern Bloc countries, I found that being a woman in the military is not so familiar to them. The women on board the Legare were the issue of discussion in newspapers, within the media crews, and amongst several high-ranking officials. ...

"Women are looked at in an entirely different way in these countries.... Women in many of these countries are not expected to make major decisions and were not looked at as leaders in their work force. They tend to assume clerical jobs and find their roles in the household. Several young women from these countries are fighting to be part of the nontraditional work force and slowly are making history."

Our peacetime engagement efforts resulted in meeting 400 professionals in 56 sessions—held as round tables in the wardroom, personal defense exercises on the flight deck, herding oil in an aquarium, and hoisting rescue swimmers and combat divers. The chiefs' mess led the crew in experiences that directly reached another 208 people. In Kaliningrad, more than 5,000 visitors lined the pier to see the Legare and speak English to the crew; all in all, we introduced the U.S. Coast Guard to more than 26,000 people over the summer.

Captain Crowley is the former Commanding Officer of the Legare and currently is assigned as Special Assistant to the Coast Guard’s Chief Counsel.



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