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GDF Coast Guard poised to get more US support

The United States Coast Guard has wrapped up an initial site survey of the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard with the aim of providing a variety of support under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), the embassy here said in a statement on Friday.

“This week’s initial site survey brought the team to Georgetown to meet the leadership of the Guyana Defence Force and Coast Guard, followed by an assessment of the current status of GDF Coast Guard vessels, infrastructure, and maintenance and logistics systems.

The visit enabled team members to develop a strong rapport with their GDF counterparts and better understand the everyday challenges of operating small vessels within Guyanese territorial waters,” the embassy said in a statement.

The nine Coast Guard personnel,, who are members of the newly-formed Technical Assistance Field Team (TAFT), were here from October 22-24 for two days of interaction. The TAFT is a joint US Coast Guard/Department of Defense team based out of the US Southern Command, Miami Florida.

“TAFT assistance focuses on the upkeep of U.S.-purchased interceptor-type small boats used for combating international organized crime such as narco-trafficking and piracy,” added the embassy in its statement. The US has in the past provided vessels to the GDF Coast Guard.

The visit by the TAFT team comes ahead of the planned provision of several more boats to the GDF Coast Guard under the CBSI. “The U.S. Coast Guard team and U.S. Embassy’s Military Liaison Office regard the visit as establishing a strong foundation for further CBSI cooperation, especially following the anticipated delivery of coastal patrol vessels in the coming months through the CBSI program.”

The TAFT team is currently comprised of nine U.S. Coast Guard members, with six U.S. Army personnel expected to join the team by the spring of 2014. At full operating capacity, the team will be able to provide local and long distance support to Caribbean coastal forces, including the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard. The TAFT team specializes in small boat repairs, development of short- and long-term maintenance plans, and the improvement of logistics and supply processes, often serving as a conduit between U.S. Embassy staff, local forces, and commercial and technical representatives.

Select members of the team traveled by GDF Air Corps helicopters to the GDF Coast Guard’s floating base in the Essequibo River, where they interacted with fellow coast guardsmen and were briefed on the distinctive challenges faced by GDF Coast Guard personnel in operating the floating base. At the end of the visit, TAFT Senior Chief Machinery Technician Gilbert Page praised the GDF Coast Guard colleagues the team worked with for their “ingenuity and professionalism.”

TAFT Officer-In-Charge, Lieutenant Commander William “Brian” Winburn observed that the team’s presence reflected the United States’ commitment to the CBSI. Lieutenant Commander Bob Novotny, commander of the Embassy’s Military Liaison Office, added that this initial TAFT visit “marks the beginning of a new and enduring chapter in security cooperation and information exchange between the United States and Guyana in support of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative