The USCG in Maritime Warfare: A Junior Officer's Perspective
[By Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir]
“Conn, Nav Eval, recommend you come to course 120°.”
“Roger. Nav Eval, helm come to course 120°.”
“Aye. Coming to course 120°.”
With that, 418 feet of white steel swing direction and adjust course through the Western Pacific as the crew of the USCGC Stratton continues their patrol eastward toward the U.S. and eventually to homeport in Alameda, California.
Lt. j.g. Angela-Ruth Johnson, an Oak Harbor, Washington native, is assisting and training a new navigation evaluator during this particular evolution on the bridge. She is also charting her course. Her primary role is serving as the assistant operations officer aboard Stratton. This is her third year in the fleet, and she is responsible for assisting the operations officer with all major evolutions conducted by the crew. She is not the first sailor in her family. Her father Robert was an enlisted aviation electrician in the U.S. Navy and retired to Pensacola, Florida, at the rank of Chief Petty Officer.
Her father’s last day in the Navy was her first day in the U.S. Coast Guard, as she reported to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. A 2017 graduate of the academy, she holds a degree in operations research and computer analysis. Her first assignment was aboard USCGC Diligence (WMEC 616) on the East Coast.
[Left: Lt. j.g. Angela-Ruth Johnson stands with her parents after her promotion ceremony in 2018 (Photo courtesy Johnson family/Released)]
The Stratton’s current patrol through the Indo-Pacific draws certain parallels to one of her father’s deployments aboard the USS Midway, homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, in the early 90s. Over the past four and half months, Stratton traveled throughout the South Pacific and the Far East on missions for both the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet and the U.S. Coast Guard places her father sailed decades earlier.
Fresh off the third round of Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama, alongside the U.S. and Philippine Navies and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, Stratton demonstrated the Coast Guard’s ability to promote regional security cooperation, maintain and strengthen maritime partnerships, and enhance interoperability by conducting shared training. Joint teams including operations specialists and intelligence specialists focused on maritime domain awareness while engineers from Stratton worked with Philippine sailors on propulsion systems and firefighting training aboard the former USCGC Boutwell (WHEC 719), now the BRP Andres Bonafacio (PS 17).
Johnson participated directly in cross deck landings as a break-in helicopter control officer. Her team successfully embarked a Philippine helicopter and crew aboard the cutter’s flight deck while the Stratton’s MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew practiced landings to foreign ships in the area.
The crew of USCGC Stratton (WMSL 752) conduct helicopter operations in the Pacific, Nov. 1, 2019. Lt. j.g. Angela-Ruth Johnson is the assistant operations officer and serves as the break-in helicopter operations officer overseeing the evolution. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir/Released)
“This deployment has been challenging. Working alongside the Navy has its own set of rules and parameters to which we’ve adapted. The first half of the patrol focused on non-Coast Guard missions such as surface warfare combat and defense of the ships. It was a new experience for me as a tactical control officer (TAO). Our earlier exercise, Talisman Saber, was one big war-game with our partners and stood in sharp contrast to search and rescue, counterdrug, and fisheries missions. However, they all protect our nation and citizens in one way or another.”
In Talisman Saber just off the Australian coast, Johnson was TAO and managed secure traffic as the Stratton’s crew stepped in to provide fire support for the landing of U.S. Marines to Australian shores. These warfighters were simulating an insertion to retake occupied land. Formerly the Australian Navy was to provide this support but were called away during the exercise to intercept a real-world Chinese intelligence-gathering vessel. Johnson will take her current skills and continue to hone them. Her next goal is to serve as a commanding officer of a 154-foot Fast-Response Cutter.
“My father was the first in our family to join the military voluntarily, and I’m the second,” said Johnson. “The U.S. Coast Guard is a unique instrument of national security with broad authorities, deep maritime expertise, and capable assets that provide consistent operational presence within the Indo-Pacific . . . I am proud to be among these integral Pacific partners and part of a family with a legacy of sea service.”
The mariner streak continues in the Johnson family as her brother, currently in his final year, completes the Coast Guard Academy and enters the fleet in 2020.
This article appears courtesy of Coast Guard Compass and is reproduced here in abbreviated form. The original may be found here.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.