Japan, U.S. Coast Guards conduct joint counter-narcotics exercise 

The U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard completed a joint counter-narcotics exercise off Guam, June 7.

The exercise was the first operational exchange between U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam and the Japan Coast Guard and was designed to promote cooperation between the partners in areas of mutual interest including maritime security and counter-smuggling operations.

“What an incredible opportunity to conduct joint training with the Japan Coast Guard and be able to share law enforcement capabilities which will enhance future joint mission planning,” said Capt. Nicholas Simmons, Commander of Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. “These exercises further solidify our great maritime relationship and will prove to be invaluable during future missions.”

The exercise was conducted between the crews of the Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel Mizuho, Japan Coast Guard International Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Henry, and U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam.

On Monday, the participants met at Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam for tours of the participating vessels and tabletop discussions to bolster mutual understanding between the Coast Guards.

On Tuesday, the crews deployed for the at-sea exercise consisting of two counter-narcotics drills where the crews simulated locating and boarding a target of interest fishing vessel suspected of drug smuggling.

“Conducting exercises based off of real-world threats strengthens our combined readiness to respond more effectively,” said Lt. Jack Hamel, Commanding Officer of the Oliver Henry. “The cooperation and teamwork demonstrated today by the crews of Mizuho and Oliver Henry exemplifies our Coast Guards’ commitment to maintaining rules-based order in the Pacific.”

The drills focused on enhancing cooperation to detect, monitor, stop, and board suspected smuggling vessels and expanding interoperability between the partners.

The two crews also conducted a personnel exchange and rendered passing honors between the vessels.

The exercise was a part of the Japan Coast Guard and U.S. Coast Guard Operation SAPPHIRE 2022, which stands for Solid Alliance for Peace and Prosperity with Humanity and Integrity on the Rule-of-Law Based Engagement 2022, and was the second such exercise held between the U.S. Coast Guard and the Japan Coast Guard, the first being held in San Francisco in May.

SAPPHIRE was created during a joint document signing ceremony and celebration at Japan Coast Guard Headquarters earlier this year and was an annex to a memorandum of cooperation between the sea services which has existed since 2010.

The purpose of Operation SAPPHIRE is to standardize operating procedures for combined operations, training and capacity building, and information sharing between the partners.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard have been bolstering each other’s capabilities and effectiveness since the founding of the Japan Coast Guard in 1948. The agencies work together to counter illegal maritime activity and assist foreign maritime agencies in the Indo-Pacific region in improving their own capabilities necessary for maritime law enforcement.

Photo credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class David Gr.  SANTA RITA, Guam – A U.S. Coast Guard small boat moves alongside the Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel Mizuho during an exercise off Guam, June 7, 2022.

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