Sunday, April 13, 2014

US Coast Guardsman steps up to the challenge; commands US Navy unit

Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa




Staff Sgt. Christopher GrossU.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Alan Tubbs, Coastal Riverine Squadron One-Forward (CRS1-FWD) mission commander, stands in front of a U.S. Navy boat on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. Tubbs’ squadron provides port and harbor security, protects high value assets and performs maritime security operations on the coast of Djibouti. Tubbs is currently the only Coast Guardsman commanding a U.S. Navy unit. (U. S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Gross

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti – It’s not something that happens very often in the U.S. Armed Forces, but the only Coast Guardsman at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, is also the only current Coast Guardsman to hold a command position of a U.S. Navy unit.

“They live to drive boats, shoot guns and protect assets,” Tubbs said. “They’re doing what they’ve been trained to do and it’s pretty rewarding.”

Anytime a United States Ship comes in to dock at the harbor, CRS1-FWD works hand-in-hand with several agencies to protect the ship and personnel aboard. The following procedures were put into place following the USS Cole attack in October 2000.

Before the ship comes into the harbor, military working dog and explosive ordnance disposal teams sweep the area in and around the port. Once the area is cleared the riverine squadron is cleared to meet the ship and escort them into port. When the ship is docked, CRS1-FWD provides static defense until the ship departs. 

Tubbs said there’s a lot of work that goes into ensuring the ships coming into port have sustained security. He said he felt his time in the Coast Guard prepared him for this position, because he’s accustomed to an upbeat operations tempo.

“In the Coast Guard we don’t have as many people,” Tubbs said. “I have a lot of different skill sets in a lot of different areas. It has helped me understand everybody’s job a little better. You have to be quick on your feet in a smaller service.”

Tubbs enlisted into that smaller force in 1978, a force nearly a tenth the size of the U.S. Navy. He is prior enlisted, and upon commissioning in 1992, he was assigned to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro. He said his prior experience as an enlisted member has allowed him to relate to his Sailors.

“Being prior enlisted I understand the nuts and bolts, starting from an E-1 in boot camp up to an E-6,” he said. “I know what makes a bad deployment and I know what Sailors don’t like. I try very hard to make sure the obstacles they’ll typically face as enlisted or junior enlisted Sailors are not interfering with what they’re trying to accomplish while they’re here.”

Eliminating obstacles has been something his Sailors have noticed and appreciate. 

“He’s got a great understanding of the Navy and the concept of the things that we do,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Sal Gandara, CRS1-FWD. “The way he treats his people, he knows how to take care of us. He listens to us through the chain of command.”

Ensuring mission success and a smooth deployment for his Sailors has been very rewarding for Tubbs. He said that during his time here he’s been amazed with what goes on in Africa. 

“I can’t believe how much is going on in the continent of Africa. I knew about some of it before, but now I really get it and I understand the country of Djibouti,” Tubbs said. 

Tubbs said he’s enjoyed his time in Djibouti, but looks forward to returning home to Alameda, Calif.
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