I am the commander of U.S. Coast Guard
Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, based in
Bahrain, with six 110-foot cutters assigned,
working in support of the U.S. Fifth Fleet.
My whole career — including my jobs afloat
and ashore — has been preparing me for
My father was a 40-year career Marine who was
attending radio operator school in San Diego when
Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, and landed
at Tarawa, Saipan and Tinian during the war. When he
retired, he served another 12 years as a contractor.
I attended Virginia Military Institute as a member
of the NROTC [Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps]
unit, graduating in 1992 when the Cold War was ending and the Navy needed fewer officers. When I told
my instructor that what I really wanted to do was
to bust drug runners, he suggested the Coast Guard,
something I really hadn’t considered.
I looked at the missions and was amazed. I wasn’t
sure how my father would react to my intention to
seek a commission in the Coast Guard, and I was certainly surprised when he told me all about working
with the Coast Guard, including his time aboard a Navy
ship manned by the Coast Guard on his way to the
invasion of Saipan in 1944.
My first sea tour was leading a law enforcement
detachment, or LEDET, aboard U.S. Navy ships. I
deployed with [guided-missile frigate] USS Jack
Williams, now serving here in Bahrain as the RBNS
Sabha; [the destroyer] USS Thorn; [coastal patrol
ship] USS Cyclone; [destroyer] USS Arthur W. Radford;
[guided-missile frigate] USS Samuel B. Roberts; and
[guided-missile cruiser] USS Ticonderoga. This gave
me a great perspective on both the enforcement mission and operating with our Navy partners.
My first sea tour as ship’s company was as supply
officer and then operations officer aboard [high-endurance cutter] USCGC Midgett, based in Seattle.
During that tour, we deployed with the USS
Constellation battle group to the Arabian Gulf.
When looking for a follow-on assignment, I realized
that I didn’t have any search and rescue (SAR) experience, which is one of the Coast Guard’s most visible
missions. So I became a command duty officer and
SAR controller for the Pacific Area and 11th Coast Guard
District in Alameda, Calif., where we were responsible for
coordinating any SAR missions north to the California-Oregon border, west to the midpoint between California
and Hawaii, and south to Peru. I developed search plans,
tasked air stations and ships and arranged medevacs.
In 2003, I assumed command of USCGC Nantucket,
but two months later was assigned to command USCGC
Matagorda, the first of the 110-foot patrol boats that
had been stretched to 123 feet as part of the Deepwater
modernization program. We had taken the ship from Key
West to Miami when we noticed that the hull was buckling. We transited back to Key West with an escort, and
spent the next six months trying to fix the problem.
Capt. John Driscoll
U.S. COAST GUARD PATROL FORCES SOUTHWEST ASIA