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AFDW, Coast Guard partnership to improve homeland defense strategies in NCR

BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, D.C. -- New joint partnership strategies between Air Force District of Washington and the U.S. Coast Guard Station at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. are expected to improve homeland defense capabilities and better enable anti-terrorism support in the national capital region.

Air Force District of Washington's 316th Operational Group at Andrews Air Force Base has begun a new joint orientation, familiarization and incentive flight program with the Coast Guard Station at Bolling in order to ensure a better understanding of the UH-1N helicopter and its AFDW homeland defense mission, as well as the Coast Guard's waterway mission in the national capital region.

Selected Coast Guard personnel have flown in the UH-1N in the past two weeks as part of this joint familiarization program between the two Services. While Coast Guard personnel were flying, Air Force personnel were boating in order to get a water's eye view of the Coast Guard's mission and area of responsibility in the NCR.

"This is a wonderful joint opportunity for both AFDW and Coast Guard personnel to share resources and to look for efficiencies and opportunities for strengthening overall capabilities for both NCR homeland defense missions," said Major General Robert L. Smolen, AFDW commander.

Understanding what capabilities each brings to the table allows us to enhance both missions," Smolen said.

In the past two weeks, two flights have taken off from Andrews Air Force Base, MD, carrying members each from the Coast Guard Station at Bolling. These were the first of many reciprocal joint orientation familiarization flights planned in the near future.

The purpose of the flights is to allow Air Force and Coast Guard personnel an opportunity to learn each other's NCR mission and to investigate ways AFDW and the Coast Guard can combine joint resources in order to respond more effectively to protect people from any terrorism activities or other contingencies in the NCR.

"The real message here is that sharing capabilities with DoD Service partners enhances our ability for mission execution," said LT Lynda LeCrone, Coast Guard Station Washington commanding officer.

"The helicopters give us a different perspective on other resources, and how we can better compliment our mission," LeCrone said.

"This joint program is a fantastic opportunity to reinforce our training with Coast Guard personnel because it allows us to pay closer attention to our charts because many of our waterways are not easily navigated," said LTJG Kara Lavin, Coast Guard Station Washington executive officer, after her flight.

"The Air Force helicopters allowed us to see shoal water (shallow water) we can't always see in the boats making it really important that we be careful and not get complacent in our small area of responsibility in the NCR," Lavin said.

As a Coast Guard boat helmsman, Boatswains Mate 2nd Class Eric Ciuca understood an immediate benefit for partnering with AFDW.

"If we're on the water in a bad area, someone in the sky could navigate us through the shoals," Ciuca said.

"This was a great opportunity for us. I've been in the Coast Guard for 25 years and it seems like its only been since 9/11 that all the services have had great opportunities to understand each other's capabilities -- which is really a good thing," said Machinery Technician, Chief Dan Baumgardner, Coast Guard Station Washington engineering petty officer.

The United States Coast Guard is a military, multi-mission, maritime service and one of the nation's five Armed Services. Its mission is to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic interests -- in the nation's ports and waterways, along the coast, on international waters, or in any maritime region as required to support national security.

Future orientation familiarization flights will be granted on a case-by-case basis to individuals who have aviation-related responsibilities with the 1st Helicopter Squadron and its AFDW mission.

Incentive flights will be conducted to reward active duty or DoD civilian equivalent wing-level quarterly award winners for outstanding service. The incentive flight program focuses on rewarding outstanding performers throughout AFDW while minimizing operational impact to the 1st Helicopter Squadron.

For more information on helicopter orientation/familiarization flights, contact Capt. Mathew A. Contreras at DSN: 858-7931.