Operation CARIBBE – A USCG Perspective

U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment members and a crewmember from HMCS NANAIMO depart the ship on a rigid hulled inflatable boat during Operation CARIBBE on December 3, 2018. Photo: Capt Jenn Jackson XC53-2018-0009-146

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By: Captain Jenn Jackson, Public Affairs Officer, Operation CARIBBE – Fall 2018

For Lieutenant Matthew Chevalier, the Deployable Team Leader of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), Operation CARIBBE was his first time working with Canadian partners.

In fall of 2018, Lieutenant Chevalier was embarked on board HMCS Nanaimo. The deployment ran from October 15 to December 9.

“I have previously embarked on ships belonging to the U.S., British, and West African Navies, but Canadian ships are certainly unique,” said Lieutenant Chevalier. “It’s been obvious from the beginning that there is a lot of diverse experience in counter-drug operations on this ship and that the Royal Canadian Navy members truly enjoy this mission.”

Coming from a Coast Guard family with a rich tradition of military service, Lieutenant Chevalier’s first duty station was in 2014 onboard USCG Cutter MOHAWK based out of Key West, Florida. While his first focus was counter-migration operations in the Caribbean, that soon changed to counter-drug operations.

“My experience has been split between the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean, both of which are quite different,” added Lieutenant Chevalier. “The biggest consideration is the size of the space. In the Caribbean, smugglers are able to make short runs between the islands. In the Eastern Pacific the journeys are several days to cover hundreds of nautical miles. That makes it a different game with different rules.”

Adapting and being flexible is nothing new for the USCG personnel. With an average of 185 days at sea per year, LEDET teams of 8 to 12 members stand ready to embark with their specialized knowledge and integrate into the ships to which they have been assigned.

“Once we are assigned to a ship, a process starts that involves meeting with the Commanding Officer and command team, discussing details, and seeing the ship itself,” said Lieutenant Chevalier. “Even when we aren’t meeting in person, a dialogue is constantly open right up until the day we embark.”

The LEDET teams generally try to stay as consistent as operations allow, an advantage that allows them to develop trust through their training environment, to know information will be appropriately relayed, and that safety will remain paramount. The LEDET Deployable Team Leader’s confidence in their team is key to allowing them to manage the bigger picture.

“When we get busy and are chasing suspected smugglers, I am constantly having to juggle information from higher headquarters, the ship’s commanding officer, and any other supporting units,” added Lieutenant Chevalier. “I am able to be more effective as that liaison because I know my team is good to go, will be safe, and will get the job done.”

The team atmosphere – between the LEDET and the Ship’s Company – was one of the things Matthew particularly enjoys on an operation such as CARIBBE.

“The interesting thing about this mission is that we see bulk amounts of contraband in quantities that are unseen by land-based law enforcement,” said Lieutenant Chevalier. “Even more than that, the people, the traditions, the cultures, and the experiences of each deployment are what I look forward to most. The best thing is seeing the sense of accomplishment and pride in both my team and the ship’s company when we prepare to head home and knowing I helped enable that.”

On a lighter note, Lieutenant Chevalier did mention some unique “Canadianisms” he has never experienced on any other ship.

“The food on HMCS Nanaimo is by far the best I have ever had a sea,” he adds with a smile. “And the tradition of ‘wakey, wakey’ at 7 a.m., I have definitely never seen that before. It seems to be part of the atmosphere on the ship – a polite way to wake the crew and change the watch – there is something undeniably Canadian about that.”

Lieutenant Chevalier’s deployment with HMCS Nanaimo ended in December 2018. The spring iteration of Operation CARIBBE began in March 2019. Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships Yellowknife and Whitehorse are currently deployed to the eastern Pacific Ocean. A CP-140 Aurora aircraft will join them later in the month.

Operation CARIBBE is Canada’s contribution to Operation MARTILLO, a United States Joint Interagency Task Force South operation responsible for conducting interagency and international detection and monitoring operations and facilitating the interdiction of illicit trafficking.

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