EVERETT, Wash. – Guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102) arrived at its homeport of Everett, Washington on Dec. 23, after participating in an Oceania Maritime Security Initiative (OMSI) with the U.S. Coast Guard’s 14th District in the Western Pacific Ocean.
During the two-months underway, Sampson became the first U.S. warship to visit New Zealand in 33 years. At the request of the New Zealand government, Sampson assisted with relief efforts to the south island of Kaikoura after it was struck by a massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake Nov. 14.
“While viewing sobering images of widespread infrastructural damage in Kaikoura, I was also reminded and encouraged by the sight of my Sailors going ashore with an unwavering can-do spirit that assures me we are doing our part in supporting the New Zealand forces,” said Cmdr. Tim LaBenz, commanding officer of Sampson.
Sampson then participated in OMSI taskings in the Western Pacific with embarked U.S. Coast Guard personnel Nov. 27-Dec. 2.
The Coast Guard and Navy both partner to support OMSI, a Secretary of Defense program. Department of Defense assets transiting the region are leveraged to increase the Coast Guard’s maritime domain awareness and support maritime law enforcement operations in Oceania.
The Coast Guard works to prevent illegal, unreported, or unregulated fishing throughout the Pacific Ocean. Through OMSI, the Coast Guard brings a law enforcement presence to the remote U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones, the EEZs of nine Pacific Island nations, and the high seas. Bilateral ship rider agreements between these nations and the United States help protect one of the most fertile fishing grounds in the world.
An embarked law enforcement detachment from the U.S. Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Team Pacific worked with the Sampson’s Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) team and embarked air detachment from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 73.
The boarding teams inspected documentation and fish holds for illegal activity and verified compliance with conservation and management measures. Coast Guard law enforcement teams and Pacific Island Nation ship riders routinely conduct joint boardings within the host country’s EEZs to protect ocean and living marine resources.
“Responsible fisheries management is vital to a healthy and resilient ocean,” said Cmdr. Rich Howes, Coast Guard District Fourteen Enforcement Branch chief. “The OMSI mission with the U.S. Navy not only
protects this fragile marine ecosystem but it ensures future generations have access to thriving oceans with ample resources.”
Sampson concluded its assignment with community service events in Honiara, Solomon Islands, and a ceremony at the island’s Guadalcanal memorial Dec. 7.
“This is to honor all the service members who were dedicated and [who] sacrificed so much toward a cause greater than themselves. We are forever indebted for the actions of these brave heroes – the Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen we honor today,” said LaBenz. “We are privileged to walk in the shadow of this historic monument that recognizes a rich piece of nation’s history and reminds us of the selfless service to country that is so great about our nation. We are fortunate and honored to be amongst their memory.”
Sampson and Coast Guard personnel also paid respects at the memorial of USCG Signalman 1st Class Douglas P. Munro, the branch’s sole Medal of Honor recipient.
“These memorials recognize the many challenges and partnerships of the Navy, Coast Guard, Army, Marines and Air Force, which lead up to a pivotal moment in reversing the tide for the U.S. and our allies,” said LaBenz. “We are honored to be here and that Sampson could be here to take part in this day.”
While deployed, Sampson reported to the U.S. 3rd Fleet which led command and control functions into the Western Pacific region. U.S. 3rd Fleet, headquartered in San Diego, leads naval forces in the Pacific and provides realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. For more news from Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet visit http://www.navy.mil/local/c3f/.
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