From the deck plate of the Bertholf: Alaska Patrol

As one of the Coast Guard’s newest assets, the national security cutters bring operational capabilities the fleet needs for mission success. Over the next few weeks, the enlisted crew of the service’s first NSC will share their unique perspective on how the fleet’s newest class of cutters will perform in the world’s most challenging operating environments from the deck plate of the Bertholf. You can also check with Coast Guard Compass for the view from the wardroom, focusing on the capabilities of the Bertholf and the crew’s adaptability that make their missions a success.

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Gonzales, a boatswain’s mate and part of the navigation division on the Bertholf.

This week the crew successfully completed our first-ever District 17 boarding and I was the coxswain for the evolution. This boarding proved to be a challenge because I had to transfer the boarding team to the vessel in unfavorable weather conditions. The sea state ranged from 5 to 11 foot swells over the duration in a mixed sea state. The sea spray was cold, 40 degrees, and we rocked and rolled in our 23-foot small boat – the entire time fighting sea sickness and fatigue from the Alaskan waters. Prior to this patrol, we have never experienced the cold Alaska waters and weather. We are learning to adapt by always wearing the proper protective gear. These fishermen are out here day in and day out. It’s pretty admirable.

 

BERING SEA - A small boat crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf launches from the stern of the cutter to assist with a boarding in the Bering Sea April 25, 2011. The cutter Bertholf has two small boats the crew is able to use during law enforcement operations and maritime emergencies, one can be launched from the side of the cutter and the other from the stern. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally.

BERING SEA - A small boat crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf launches from the stern of the cutter to assist with a boarding in the Bering Sea April 25, 2011. The cutter Bertholf has two small boats the crew is able to use during law enforcement operations and maritime emergencies, one can be launched from the side of the cutter and the other from the stern. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally.

The cutter Bertholf has an optimally manned crew, which means every day we push ourselves as far as we can go, in the manner we are trained, to execute the mission. Everyone aboard focuses on our roles and does them well. On Friday, my role was to deliver the boarding team to the fishing vessel and make sure we safely embarked and disembarked without anyone getting hurt.

While I was driving the small boat, my shipmates were back aboard covering watches, ensuring work got done, and standing by to support a crew swap or provide any additional gear needed for the boarding. It was only one boarding, but there are so many people involved to make the first Alaska Patrol boarding ever by a national security cutter become a reality.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Gonzales, a boatswain’s mate on the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf, is a part of the navigation division on the Bertholf.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Gonzales, a boatswain’s mate on the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf, is a part of the navigation division on the Bertholf.

So far, I like the Alaska Patrols because there is a routine schedule, as compared to our previous counter-drug patrol. On a counter-drug patrol, the ship can go days or weeks, at all hours of the day and night, hunting and chasing drug runners. These fishing vessels need us out here to respond to a distress calls and hopefully prevent a bad situation from turning worse by not having adequate safety gear. During boardings of the fishing vessels, we need to check all their safety gear to ensure they are in compliance of federal laws and regulations. We also educate them in preventative maintenance procedures for their gear. From what I gather the fishermen appreciate us out here, it gives them a little bit of comfort that if something does go wrong the Coast Guard is there.

I am looking most forward to getting into the Bering Sea. You hear about it all the time and know what it is about but I don’t think you can really appreciate it until you have experienced it. So I am looking forward to being in my small boat, at or above the limitations, getting some sea spray, and putting my skills to the test. On Bertholf, we all train alot, so now I am looking forward to applying what I have been practicing for so long!

Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Gonzales’s job consists of route planning, chart preparations and being a part of the navigation team when pulling in and out of ports with the cutter. Gonzales is also a qualified coxswain for the ship’s small boats and a boarding team member. He has been in the Coast Guard for more than five years and a part of the Bertholf crew for about eight months.

While Gonzales is underway he enjoys the weather and view that life at sea provides. He also likes to play spades, ping-pong, darts, and participating in any and all morale events. He is a resident of  Newark, Calif.