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U.S., Japan Coast Guards Conduct Joint Counter-Narcotics Exercise in the Pacific

June 10, 2022, 2:30 PM HST
* Updated June 10, 11:47 AM
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the Japan Coast Guard, pictured, and U.S. Coast Guard came together for training this week. PC:USCG

The U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard completed a joint counter-narcotics exercise off Guam, Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard stated in a news release on Thursday, June 9.

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, 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 plan the at-sea exercise the next day.

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“Conducting exercises based off of real-world scenarios will boost opportunities to respond more effectively,” said Lt. Jack Hamel, the commanding officer of the Oliver Henry. “The cohesion and teamwork on display showcased that both Coast Guards have mutual interest in keeping the maritime commons safe and secure.”

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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.

The drills focused on methods of information sharing, vessel tracking, stopping measures, and inspection procedures for greater interoperability between the partners in the future.

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

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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 operation 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.

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