News: Coast Guard at KAF helps units get equipment home
Story by Spc. Ariel Solomon
KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Few Service members walking around Kandahar Air Field expect to see a Coast Guardsman. Their branch of service deploys just more than a dozen members a year in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and they have a running joke here in describing themselves as being as “rare as mythical creatures.”
The Coast Guardsmen who serve with the Coast Guard Redeployment Assistance Inspection Detachment team inspect shipping containers at KAF and provide hazardous materials training for service members redeploying back to the U.S.
“Being in the Coast Guard you don't expect to deploy overseas,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Dan Bearden, a native of Guntersville, Alabama, who serves with the RAID team. “We jumped at the opportunity to deploy. Just about every Coast Guardsman here volunteered.”
The Coast Guard's more visible domestic work involves search and rescue and protecting U.S. coasts from smugglers and other potential threats. The Coast Guard also works behind the scenes defending U.S. ports and inspecting cargo coming into the country.
“It’s good working with the other branches of service because most of them don't know what the Coast Guard does,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Adron Diggs, a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, who serves with the RAID team. “So they come up and ask us what we're doing here. It makes it easier for them to work with us.”
The Coast Guard doesn’t often get the opportunity to work with the Army or Air Force said Bearden. He explains that the Coast Guard more often works with local and federal law enforcement and other civilian agencies.
As units leave KAF, these Coast Guardsmen help ensure that the process of getting equipment back home goes smoothly at the ports. An important part of that process is dealing with potentially hazardous materials. The RAID team runs a refresher course for hazmat trained Soldiers to ensure their knowledge and understanding is honed after a long deployment.
“They looked over our lists with us identifying what was hazmat and what was not hazmat, and essentially ensured things were done right by doing a refresher on proper procedures,” said Staff Sgt. Joesph Nuzzolese, a native of Monroe, N.C., and section leader serving with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, whose unit recently prepared equipment to be sent home as part of the process of redeploying. “It's helped us make sure our paperwork was in order.”
Another duty of the RAID team is to inspect and certify cargo containers prior to the units using them to ship their equipment. Diggs explained that during the inspection of the containers, they first must identify if the structure of the container is damaged which could lead to collapse while under the weight of tons of cargo onboard a ship at sea. Then, inside and out, the markings on the container must be correct to ensure proper tracking of the container as it is moved all over the world. Last, they ensure the cargo is protected from the weather by ensuring there are no leaks in the skin of the container.
“One of the water tight tests we do is to have someone stand inside the container and close the door,” said Diggs. “If we see light anywhere we mark it and patch it.”
Once the container is certified, the job of the RAID team shifts to helping units get their equipment though customs and back to their stations quickly and safely.
“They streamlined the process. I've never had this on a deployment before and they have helped out every step of the way, to include doing the research to answer my questions,” said Nuzzolese. “They came and inspected the containers to ensure they were seaworthy, even though they were already certified, just to make sure our containers were good. They've been really helpful throughout the whole process.”
Ensuring units get their equipment home as smoothly as possible is the RAID team's responsibility. Who better to fill their role than the service charged with defending the seaports of the United States?