Though the Coast Guard's missions are vast and span the globe, there are four regions in which significant, multi-asset operations are consistently ongoing: the Bering Sea, George's Bank, the Windward Passage, and the Greater Antilles. Typically, these operations involve multiple Reliance -, Hamilton -, Bear (WMEC-901)-, Point (WPB-82301)- and Island (WPB-1301)-class cutters, embarked helicopters, and dedicated fixed wing support. These elements are often organized into task elements with one cutter's commanding officer designated as the task unit commander (CTU).
Now the question arises "what about 0-6 commands?" Captains with command-afloat backgrounds possess a wealth of knowledge and experience, and are extremely valuable to the organization. Under my proposal, full captains with O-5 command experience and no longer assigned to their own ships would be assigned to Coast Guard Headquarters and district and area staffs. From there, they would deploy to Hamilton - and Bear -class cutters with one or two staff members and assume the CTU role for these significant operations, similar to that of a commodore of a destroyer squadron. These deployments would last 60 to 90 days, providing an overlapping C2 cadre by transferring the commodore's flag from cutter to cutter. This concept would rotate numerous O-6s from various Coast Guard district staffs through multiple regions and operations, providing command afloat opportunities to as many as 24 0-6s each year, in place of the 12 currently billeted to WHECs. For example, an 0-6 with mostly Pacific area experience and assigned to District 17 in Juneau, Alaska, could rotate through an assignment as CTU for a Greater Antilles deployment. This would broaden his or her operational expertise while providing an 0-6 in tactical command of these major operations. This theory already has been proven effective during Operation Frontier Lance. During this deployment, staffs from CGRon-42 and DesRon-6 commanded an extremely successful multinational operation while embarked on USCGC Dallas (WHEC-716) and USCGC Gallatin (WHEC-721).
In the leaner, budget-constrained years ahead, the Coast Guard must be ready to employ smaller, better-trained crews to our existing fleet. By restructuring from the top down, we will avoid placing more senior, over qualified commanding officers on smaller, less-capable platforms.
Lieutenant Passarelli is a 1992 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy. His assignments include first lieutenant on board USCGC Confidence (WMEC-619), and as weapons department head of the USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722). He is presently assigned to the Seventh Coast Guard District Command Center in Miami, Florida.