POLUWAT, Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia - USCGC SEQUOIA conducted boater awareness and safety training, provided medical attention and education, and completed electronic repairs to the island of Poluwat on Saturday, 09JUN12. This visit by SEQUOIA was the first U.S. ship to visit Poluwat in over thirty years. In addition to providing training, SEQUOIA delivered humanitarian supplies to the local population.
Petty Officer Geri Cabrera and Petty Officer Chris Hall conducted boater safety training with numerous adults and children. The training focused on how to be visible and safe at sea, critical information for small island communities in the Pacific. Recognizing that modern safety gear is not available to the residents, the training taught ways to improvise common lifesaving equipment. SEQUOIA crewmembers explained how survival and
signal tools, such as mirrors, could be improvised by using a CD or other reflective objects, and how lifesaving tools like lifejackets can be supplemented in an emergency by mooring balls or even coconuts. Simple actions such as wearing bright clothes, painting your boat bright colors and having a mirror can be the difference between life or death. In addition, SEQUOIA crewmembers provided the residents with float plans which provide crucial information to the Coast Guard in the event of a search & rescue (SAR) case. The plans detail who is onboard, what they are carrying, how far they are going, and what time they will be back so people on island can accurately report any missing or overdue vessels. The training was well received and as Petty Officer Hall notes, “[the resident’s] understanding of the importance of SAR leads to safer boating practices and their rescue in an emergency.”
Time is a resource in short supply during SAR, especially in the Western Pacific. Dr. Art Allen, an Oceanographer for the Coast Guard SAR program, explains that every step of the SAR process for operations in the Pacific takes precious time to complete: “When local authorities are notified after 24 hours and the Coast Guard is notified 24 hours after that, it will take another 24-48 hours to send a C-130 from Barbers Point, HI.” Therefore, stranded vessels typically must wait days before receiving assistance and float plans increase the probability of finding boaters in time and ultimately increase their chance of survival. Therefore, both Petty Officer Cabrera and Petty Officer Hall emphasized the importance of float plans during their training.
Chief Petty Officer Leonardo Cirino, a Navy Hospital Corpsman stationed at Military Sealift Command Ship Support Unit Guam, joined SEQUOIA on its voyage. As one of the first crewmembers ashore, Chief Petty Officer Cirino met with the local nurse and residents. He provided medical supplies and basic medical services to the people of Poluwat by cleaning wounds and treating other various ailments.
A collaborative effort between SEQUOIA’s Electrician’s Mates (EM) and Electronics Technicians (ET), Petty Officer Nate Villagomez, Petty Officer Muy Khut, and Petty Officer Steve Schmoll enabled repairs to the community’s UHF radio. Salvaging parts from discarded electronics, they were able to power the sole radio on Poluwat, and reconfigure Poluwat’s solar panel system. Their reconfiguration efforts enabled the radio to be continuously powered by solar panels. They also verified the integrity of the radio tower and ensured it functioned properly. Their hard work guaranteed that the residents would be able to communicate in the event of an emergency and coordinate efforts with the other surrounding islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and United States Coast Guard.
SEQUOIA’s small boat, crewed by Petty Officer Bobby Richardson, Petty Officer Wayne Chandler, Petty Officer Clint Amerman, and Petty Officer R.J. Tangalan, made numerous trips from SEQUOIA to Poluwat to deliver humanitarian supplies. SEQUOIA’s small boat and crewmembers spent hours to ensure fifteen pallets of humanitarian supplies made it to Poluwat’s shores. The supplies were donated by the Ayuda Foundation which coordinated the collection of food and further essential supplies for Poluwat.
The overall Poluwat experience was rewarding both to the locals and to SEQUOIA—as Petty Officer Cabrera remarks, “It is always a very gratifying experience to be involved in saving a life.” Ultimately, SEQUOIA and its crew provided much more than humanitarian supplies, but gave the Poluwat people vital training and services to ensure their wellbeing in the future.
SEQUOIA, homeported in Apra Harbor, Guam, is manned by a crew of seven officers and 37 enlisted personnel. It is the 15th Juniper Class sea-going buoy tender and the 10th "B-Class" cutter built by Marinette Marine Corporation in Marinette, Wisc. Sequoia's primary missions are maintaining aids to navigation, homeland security, law enforcement, marine environmental protection and search and rescue. Its 225-feet long with twindiesel engine propulsion, bow and stern thrusters and advanced maneuverability capabilities that make it the world’s premier buoy-tending platform.