Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Michael P. Leavitt meet with crewmembers aboard Coast Guard Cutter Aquidneck in Manama, Bahrain, on Nov. 21, 2012. (Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley)
Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Bob Papp visited Bahrain last week, the second leg of a series of official visits to meet with partner organizations and Coast Guardsmen stationed or deployed overseas.
The U.S. and Bahrain have had close military ties for decades. Bahrain has served as a base for U.S. naval activity in the Arabian Gulf since 1947 and both countries signed a defense cooperation agreement in 1991, the same year Bahrain was named a major non-NATO ally. Also embodying this close relationship is the U.S. Coast Guard’s Patrol Forces Southwest Asia unit in Manama, Bahrain. With six patrol boats and 280 Coast Guardsmen it is the largest Coast Guard unit outside of the continental United States.
Patrol Forces Southwest Asia was originally formed to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. With the shift to Operation Enduring Freedom following the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces out of Iraq, the unit has focused on maritime security, infrastructure protection, military-to-military assistance and supporting exercises in the Arabian Gulf, U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility.
During the visit, the Commandant along with Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Michael P. Levitt, conducted an “all-hands” meeting with Patrol Forces Southwest Asia crews to thank them for volunteering for the assignment, discuss current Coast Guard issues and answer questions. Following the meeting they served Thanksgiving dinner and dined with their Shipmates.
“Meeting with my Shipmates was a highlight of this busy trip,” said the commandant. “It was a great way for the master chief and I to thank them for standing the watch and protecting U.S. interests especially on a holiday like Thanksgiving when they can’t be home with their families.”
Fireman John Mimnaugh, a Coast Guard Cutter Aquidneck crewmember in Bahrain, said he had a memorable Thanksgiving.
“To me, hearing the Commandant of the Coast Guard say Patrol Forces Southwest Asia will be recorded in the Coast Guard history books reaffirms our presence in the Middle East,” said Mimnaugh. “It was also a great experience to sit down and talk with the master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard and get insight about future advancements for junior enlisted.”
While most Patrol Forces Southwest Asia Coast Guardsmen attending the all-hands are based in Bahrain, others came from units forward deployed in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Afghanistan or United Arab Emirates.
“The Coast Guard’s unique status as a military service with extensive law enforcement authorities and experience is a perfect fit right now out here,” said the Commandant. “Captain Flynn, Master Chief Pearson and the rest of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia are doing a great job assisting both DOD and the countries here in the Arabian Gulf. I am very proud of all they have accomplished and very thankful for all of the support they have received.”
The Commandant thanked U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain Thomas Krajeski in person during a meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain. The Commandant also conducted an official visit to Bahrain’s Interior Minister Lt. Gen. Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Commander of Bahrain Coast Guard Brig. Gen. Ala Seyadi and Chief of Public Security Maj. Gen. Tariq Al Hassan to thank them for their support and to discuss ongoing areas of cooperation.