MORONI, Comoros - Locals from the city of Moroni, Comoros, visited the Cosep Learning Center to share sea survival skills and lifesaving techniques with the Joint Civil Affairs Team 101, Jan. 26.
The team, assigned to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa and commanded by U.S. Army Captain Ivan Hong, discussed what to do in case of a water emergency with fisherman, firefighters, the Comorian Coast Guard, high school and university students, and even people who wandered in off the street.
"The national identity here is that of island people,” Hong said. “This training will help not only the fisherman survive in case of an emergency, but also the other people will know what to do when disaster strikes."
Hong stated that water fatalities have dropped 44 percent in the last year, from 25 in 2009 to 11 in 2010. The knowledge has been passed from other civil affairs teams in Comoros and contributed to the reduction in previous water fatalities.
"We take pride that the JCAT Team here can help provide valuable training to the Comorian people,” Hong said. "This knowledge will help give people the necessary skills to survive if they find themselves in danger."
The current round of training covered four sections consisting of pre-underway checks, navigation basics, water and survival, and survival at sea.
"We are mentoring here today to help everyone stay safe," said U.S Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Kostoulakos, a member of the JCAT 101 and trainer in the class. “They are eager to learn whatever they can."
Said Ishihaka, a local fisherman from the village of Iconi, recounted that the techniques he learned saved his life.
"We had a broken engine with a strong current,” Ishihaka said. “We could see land but could not get there. We used our engine for an anchor and waited. We were told [in the class] that people would come to help and we waited. I was afraid but the next day we were found."
The essence of safety is planning ahead, Kostoulakos said.
“It is important to plan ahead in case something happens,” Kostoulakos said. “You should know your route, tell people before you head out, check your equipment and the condition of the boat too.”
He also stressed that if checks are not performed, cancel the trip. “Plan for the best and hope something doesn’t happen,” said Kostoulakos. “But always be prepared.”
Adam Alimaze, a fisherman from Iconi, said that the skills he now knows would save lives in the future.“The fisherman share the knowledge that they have with everyone,” said Alimaze. “Now they know what to do in case something bad happens.”
Even with all the planning, the most important thing to do is stay calm and understand the emotions that occur during stressful times said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Albert Brown of JCAT 101 and teacher in the class.
“The survival mindset covers hope, fear, anger, but also focus,” said Brown. “When you find yourself in a desperate situation, many emotions can arise. Fear is one but you need to remember the plan that you created to survive.”
Alimaze retold a story of how on four separate occasions, one minute the water was calm but then a rogue wave capsized his craft.
“I learned a lot of things from that,” Alimaze said. “The most important thing is not to panic.”All the teachers, both fisherman and JCAT 101 team member, thanked everyone in attendance.
“We learned a lot today and I want to thank you,” Kostoulakos said. “This valuable knowledge is something that we will enjoy passing on to others in the future.”
Hong said he was very satisfied with the outcome of the class.“We had people come because they were curious and they stayed,” Hong said. “They said they were excited to get home and tell their families what they had learned today."
This work, JCAT 101, Fisherman Share Sea Survival Techniques, by PO1 Timothy Wilson, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.