GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (July 18, 2012) (NNS) -- The guided-missile frigate USS Underwood (FFG 36) arrived at Naval Station (NS) Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), Cuba to resupply and embark a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment (LEDET) for Counter Transnational Organized Crime (C-TOC) operations July 18.
The efforts are in support of Operation Martillo and Southern Seas in the Caribbean Sea, and the arrival provided a variety of opportunities for Underwood and her crew while in a Navy port.
"GTMO is extremely important to the U.S. Navy, especially while we're operating down in Fourth Fleet," said Underwood's Command Master Chief (SW) Michael Bates. "We can accomplish some things we haven't been able to do since we left Mayport, like use a gun range. We're getting over 60 Sailors qualified on the M-16, M-9, and shot gun qualifications to include low-light, which is almost impossible to do while at sea."
Underwood made good use of Guantanamo Bay's logistics support to the fleet, such as taking on high quality fuel and much needed stores.
"We're getting refueled while we're here," said Bates. "The pier services are outstanding; they're a lot better than a lot of the countries we go to. Here we can also get supplies equal to those in the mainland U.S., send off and receive mail and we can get important parts that we need. GTMO is very strategic in our operations down in South America and the Caribbean and it's a great mid-deployment stop for the ship."
Underwood Sailors took care of medical and dental requirements while in Guantanamo Bay.
"Having that option helps us, the corpsman, keep the medical readiness of Underwood at 100 percent," said Hospital Corpsman First Class Joseph Swanson, who is stationed aboard Underwood. "We're having expiring dental exams and expiring audiograms taken care of while we're here. We're able to keep the crew's medical readiness at 100 percent and we can catch things early as far as hearing loss and dental problems. We can get them taken care of now and be fully ready to complete our deployment."
Before getting underway, Underwood embarked U.S. Coast Guard LEDET, based in San Diego, to assist in the next phase of deployment, Operation Martillo, which focuses on counter-transnational organized crime (C-TOC).
"We'll be conducting counter-drug operations in the Caribbean," said Lt. (j.g.) Eric C. Watkins, officer in charge of LEDET 107. "What's unique about our team is that the Navy doesn't have the authority to enforce domestic law, so we, the Coast Guard, come aboard and provide law enforcement when we conduct boardings and interdictions."
Underwood is deployed to Central and South America and the Caribbean Sea in support of Southern Seas 2012 and attached to U.S. Fourth Fleet.
COMUSNAVSO/COMFOURTHFLT supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.
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