SANTA RITA, Guam — The crews of the Guam-based 154-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters made a name for themselves in 2022, with over 240 days away from homeport in service to Pacific partners and the Nation.
They are essential to executing the National Defense Strategy, White House Indo-Pacific strategy, implementing the Indo-Pacific combatant commander's campaign plan, and the local commander's strategic plan. These crews are trusted partners in the region and provide a persistent presence helping the U.S. compete below the level of armed conflict alongside our Allies, shaping the operational environment.
The support staff is one of the oft-overlooked enablers of this strategy aboard field assets. In the case of USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140), one of these key personnel is Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Anthony Dydasco Pablo, the lead culinary specialist. Originally from Mongmong, Guam, he's been in the Service for five years and joined the Oliver Henry crew in the Spring of 2022, just before their first Oceania expeditionary patrol. He was recently named the runner-up in the 2022 Senior Culinary Specialist of the Year awards.
"I joined the Coast Guard to make a difference and try something different with my life," said Pablo. "I worked at a few restaurants around Guam while paying for school and decided to go another route. Now I can use the Coast Guard to reach my professional and personal goals."
As an unintentional independent duty culinary specialist at the time, the expeditionary patrol presented a challenge. While billeted for more than one culinary specialist, many cutters are sailing short due to a limited number of rated personnel. His previous tour aboard the USCGC Maui (WPC 1304) in Bahrain conditioned him to extreme heat and high operational tempo.
Twenty-four crew times three meals a day, times 30 days means 2,160 meals each month. In port, they'll do an "open galley," providing a break and accounting for people eating off the ship. On the first expeditionary patrol, the crew also pitched in to help, but by the second, the newly minted SNCS Jeremiah Muniz arrived from "A" school. Pablo is mentoring him in shipboard life and galley best practices while strengthening his own skill set -- sights set on becoming a warrant officer or commissioned officer.
The U.S. Coast Guard is one of the smallest branches of the Armed Forces but is widely known for crews consistently going above and beyond their published capabilities. Pablo attributes this accomplishment to the crews' proficiency on cutters and their shore support.
"Though all rates can be demanding due to the high operational tempo, knowing that everyone is in the same boat, pun intended, helps. At the end of the day, we all go home safely with the task accomplished. It requires us to be dedicated and hardworking and is not the right fit for everyone, but if you want to challenge yourself, you can achieve greatness beyond just your assigned position. The need for flexibility and adaptability is guaranteed to be a lesson learned at any unit," said Pablo.
Being a CS on the Oliver Henry requires flexibility regarding sea state or the availability of ingredients in port. Pablo sets the meal plan weekly, but when the forecast calls for 6 to 8-foot seas, the menu may change for safety and to match the crew's appetite. A lot of it comes down to operational planning and scheduling, from time management to shop for and load stores before getting underway to rotating stock and putting out meals.
Underway life has challenges, but if you're willing to "roll with it," there are many benefits. The crew conducted a fish call on the recent expeditionary patrol and hooked several good-sized Wahoo. One 30-pound fish was carefully filleted by fellow crewmember Petty Officer 1st Class Ikaika Ruiz, an electricians' mate from Hawaii, producing several plates of sashimi and kelaguen prepared by the commanding officer, a Chamorro dish similar to ceviche using lemon and hot peppers rather than lime and cilantro.
"The camaraderie and memories made with your shipmates underway and on port calls are something to look forward to always," said Pablo.
Recent shopping in Palau for the last leg of the patrol required visiting several groceries, which came to around $5,700. More than 1,200 pounds of food came aboard, ranging from essentials like meat and coffee to various snacks and water.
Ensuring daily meal services for 26 people for four to six weeks straight, in addition to collateral duties such as damage control, ship's EMT, safety during special sea detail, and supporting the team when they conduct boardings and search and rescue, takes leadership and dedication. Each member must know their job and duties on such a small crew. Unsurprisingly, Pablo considers a leader to be someone who works with others and leads by example to find solutions, not excuses.
"Leaders don't need to have a title. Regardless of rank, anyone on the boat can be a leader in any situation, such as damage control efforts, and shares or accepts others' ideas on combatting the casualty," said Pablo.
Like his other local colleagues, Pablo draws on the strength of being Chamorro. "Family comes first," said Pablo. "Strangers are welcome as guests to any event to not feel left out, such as beach barbeques, as there is ample food and drinks along with stories to be shared and passed to one another. Whether on the island or overseas, Chamorro is being inclusive in spreading close bonds and connections to others from all walks of life."
Being a CS means being proactive by nature, and the mission of feeding the crew is without an end state, constantly evolving but continually assessed. Similar to operational planning, they perform best when capitalizing on synchronized planning to forecast crew needs and anticipate demands. This way, CSs support campaign plans and ensure our forces are always ready to respond to mission requirements serving the nation and our partners.
Pablo spends time with the family outside of work, fishing, playing cards, or gathering around a board game. His attitude and pastimes tie to his favorite quote by Bob Marley, "Some people are so poor that all they have is money."
"This is my favorite quote because it doesn't matter what your job is, what you do in life, or how much money you make because you cannot take any of that with you when you die. Yes, money can buy limited happiness, but memories and experiences with cherished ones matter most when facing a life-flashing experience. That is what being Chamorro is all about," said Pablo.
For more U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam news, visit us on DVIDS or subscribe! You can also visit us on Facebook or Instagram at @USCGForcesMicronesia or Twitter @USCGFMSG.