SOUTH ATLANTIC OCEAN –
A team of Marines from the Marine Corps Information Operations Center recently completed an operational deployment in the South Atlantic Ocean aboard USCGC Stone (WMSL 758).
While not the first instance of Marines operating aboard U.S. Coast Guard cutters, the attaching of Marines aboard Stone is the latest development in the deepening partnership between both services, combining Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security capabilities to implement a joint approach toward furthering U.S. interests at sea and abroad.
“The recurring theme of this deployment has been partnership,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Clinton Carlson, Stone’s commanding officer. “We’ve been able to exercise our interagency and interdepartmental relationships with the embarked Marines, and then integrate those joint capabilities with international partners like Uruguay and Brazil.”
The history of integration between the Coast Guard and the Marine Corps sets a strong precedent for present-day operations. During World War II, Coast Guard coxswains were some of the most experienced boat operators in the Naval Service, piloting amphibious landing craft to transport Marines from U.S. Navy ships to the shores of every major Pacific invasion in the war.
Current integration of Marines into Coast Guard operations is part of both organizations’ ongoing validation of the tri-service maritime strategy: Advantage at Sea. Released in December 2020, the document outlines the collective strategy of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard to counter malign influence and uphold the rules-based international system of free and open trade through shared commitments with allies and partners.
“We’ve been able to exercise our interagency and interdepartmental relationships with the embarked Marines, and then integrate those joint capabilities with international partners like Uruguay and Brazil.” U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Clinton Carlson, Stone’s commanding officer
Stone’s deployment in the South Atlantic set out to counter illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which has replaced piracy as the leading global maritime security threat. Illegal fishing is one of several illicit maritime activities that violate nations’ sovereignty and place undue burden on their economies, undermining the system of free and law-abiding trade that has helped foster international peace and prosperity in recent decades.
“The deployment demonstrated the effectiveness of both our joint and combined integration in a relatively short span of time,” Carlson said. “Working with the Department of State, we’ve been able to present joint approaches to further U.S. interests in each of the countries we’ve visited.”
Early in the patrol, Stone embarked officers from the Brazilian Navy who were able to quickly relay information from the ship’s combat information center to Brazilian ships and shore-based authorities, significantly enhancing the crew’s ability to enforce maritime law south of the equator. This rapid exchange exercised a preexisting information sharing agreement between the two nations, established years previously.
Over the course of the patrol, Stone observed more than 300 vessels from a broad range of nations fishing in a vast, unregulated area of the South Atlantic. As malign actors attempt to exert economic influence via illicit activity in both exclusive and international waters, U.S. allies and partners will be crucial in maintaining free and open access to key maritime resources and waterways.
“These partnerships are enduring,” Carlson continued. “And they will only deepen in the coming years as we work together to safeguard mutual security interests in the Atlantic and across the globe.”
The Coast Guard is already planning for future patrols to further integrate Navy and Marine Corps capabilities alongside these burgeoning international partnerships.