Saturday, April 26, 2008

Key West and the Coasties

Thursday night we flew from Honduras to Key West. It was another late night arrival followed by another early morning wake-up call. After a great breakfast, although rushed as usual to keep on track with our very tight schedule, we took a quick bus ride to the headquarters of Joint Inter-Agency Task Force-South, or JIATF-S.

We received a brief from the task force's deputy director and intelligence operations director. This gave us deeper insight into the multitude of U.S. and foreign agencies working together to deter, identify, track, intercept and prosecute those who engage in the trafficking of illegal items or people into the United States and elsewhere. We were given great examples of how these efforts are indeed paying dividends. While there is no overnight answer, JCOCers left saying there's a need for continued determination and updates to policy to best facilitate success.

Upon our departure from JIATF-South, we stopped to look at a seized submersible vessel previouly used to move illicit items without detection. Again, the JCOC team was impressed with what they learned here.

The team then moved on to U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West. After a group operations briefing, we gathered at the sea wall to witness a search and rescue demonstration. We then again broke into smaller teams for a more personalized, hands-on experience. We toured a medium endurance Coast Guard cutter, checked out USCG's ability to rapidly deploy communication assets in a time of crisis, spoke with Coasties assigned to their depolyable operations group (or DOG) and tactical law enforcement team (and just how great they are at disabling fast boats that need to be detained), participated in a use-of-force demonstration for non-compliant vessels (going fast and seeing their waterborne tactics), and learned about some of the latest biometrics technologies used to better identify and potentially track those folks detained by the Coast Guard.

It was another hot (and humid) day, but time passed quickly as all the JCOCers were so pleased with the level of access and what they were learning. This was an impressive day of events lined up for the JCOC participants.

Now back to the C-17 aircraft and another jaunt -- this time to Miami -- in advance of our JCOC 75 farewell reception and dinner! Of course, we have only a matter of minutes to get to our rooms, change, and get downstaitrs again! But that is the fast-paced schedule of JCOC! No "Hollywood Showers" for any of us! Time is not something we have a lot of, esecially on this trip!

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