SANTA RITA, Guam — Capt. Nicholas Simmons, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam (CGFM/SG), led a delegation to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), one of the three former U.S. trust territories under the Compact of Free Association (COFA) the week of Sept. 18, 2023.
The visit underscores CGFM/SG's strengthened role as the primary facilitator of the cooperative relationship between the U.S. Coast Guard and the RMI, reinforcing longstanding ties. They will continue to hold a significant role in the regular Joint Committee Meetings.
Deepening Partnerships in the Pacific
"Nurturing our relationship with key leaders in the Pacific region is vital. While we cover an immense area, spanning more than 2 million square nautical miles, our focus remains on fostering meaningful ties with our island neighbors and assisting them in their professional maritime endeavors," said Simmons.
The delegation, including COFA Maritime Advisor Lt. Cmdr. Christine Igisomar and COFA Liaison Officer Lt. Anna Maria Vaccaro, met with pivotal Marshallese agencies, such as the RMI Environmental Protection Authority and the RMI Trust Company. They also engaged with the U.S. embassy charge d'affairs and staff and the Australian maritime security advisor's team.
Commitment to the Region
The recent visit builds upon the December 2022 engagement when the Guam-based 154-foot Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Frederick Hatch (WPC 1143) crew visited Majuro, the capital of the RMI. The mission reinforced the partnership through established bilateral maritime law enforcement agreements, shiprider operations, subject matter exchanges, and community engagements.
Compact of Free Association Explained
The Compact of Free Association (COFA) serves as a framework for the U.S. relationship with its former trust territories, which include the Pacific Island Countries of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia. The agreement offers economic aid, defense provisions, and other forms of cooperation. As a facilitator, the U.S. Coast Guard aims to reinforce enthusiasm for U.S. re-engagement in the region, prioritizing cooperative efforts to safeguard lives, individual sovereignty, and regional resources such as highly migratory fish stocks.
A Shared Maritime Heritage
The Republic of the Marshall Islands and the U.S. Coast Guard share a rich maritime heritage. "Though our traditional navigational tools may differ, at the heart of our relationship is a shared respect for the sea," said Simmons. "This enhanced role underscores CGFM/SG's commitment to our island neighbors, solidifying the U.S. Coast Guard as a trusted partner with an enduring positive presence and our desire for sustained cooperative endeavors in Oceania."
— USCG —
U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam comprises more than 350 members based in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands spread across shoreside and afloat units committed to maritime safety, security, and stewardship in Oceania. They operate under the U.S. Coast Guard 14th District umbrella, which oversees operations for the Central and Western Pacific.