PATFORSWA Lessons Learned, Expeditionary WPCs

We have had some discussion recently about how lessons of expeditionary deployment of patrol craft are lost and must be relearned. I’m opening this post in hopes it will be a temporary repository for discussion of what went well and what needed improvement. There are a number of possible topics that come to mind.

Command Relationships
Personnel policies
Rules of Engagement

For starters I will quote Craig Allen Jr.’s comments on an earlier post:

“…the Coast Guard not capturing it’s lessons-learned from Vietnam–I agree! There is very little to document that extraordinary expeditionary USCG operation. I fear the same hard-won knowledge from 12+ years of USCG OCO mission in the AG will also fade into obscurity unless there is an effort made to preserve it. The skillsets for MIP/MIO/SFA and operating in semi-permissive environments should not have to be reinvented every time they’re required.

“There are some organizational obstacles to internalizing the PATFORSWA lessons-learned though. One is that the mission is tied to OCO funding, which the USCG does not know whether it will get or not. (Every year the rumor is that the new P4 crew will be the ones to turn out the lights and lock up when the mission stands down.) Investing the effort/$ into making long-term organizational improvements in training, equipment, tactics, etc. when the future of the mission is so uncertain can be a tough sell. Second obstacle is the one-year tour length. Makes it difficult to gain the experience/knowledge required to internalize lessons-learned. By the time a P4 team adjusts to the battle rhythm and can start to see where improvements can be made, its already time to start preparing for handoff to their reliefs. Does the CG have 12 years of recent OCO experience or 1 year of experience repeated 12 times?

“Right now there are a few hundred PATFORSWA vets with recent first-hand knowledge of an important niche mission for the CG (and some at LANTAREA who have managed the program and know how its evolved over time.) So… are there lessons worth capturing to better prepare the CG to fulfill similar missions in the future? Have they been adequately discussed and recorded? If not, how do we ensure that they are?

“One hopes that, ten years from now, we’re not trying to figure out how to do these kinds of missions all over again. My suggestion that the USCG and USN establish an expeditionary PC training facility was one idea for how we might keep the skills sharp in anticipation of their likely demand in the future.”