The Other Day Job
Can you work for the reserves?
Across a conference room in Port Victoria, Seychelles, sits a sea of professionals: an FAA inspector, the president of a consulting firm, a pilot with a regional airline, a medical assistant, and a chief financial officer of a logistics firm.
"Can you give me a status update on the VBSS (Visit, Board, Search and Seizure) teams in Djibouti?" asks Capt. Guy D. Jackson, a reservist assigned to Commander Sixth Fleet, Detachment 802, who lives in Fleming Island, Fla.
Jackson is the chief financial officer at Lasership, a logistics firm based out of Virginia. However, in Seychelles, he is the exercise director of Cutlass Express 2013, a U.S.-led maritime exercise designed to improve cooperation and tactical expertise among participating nations in order to increase maritime safety and security in the waters off East Africa.
Jackson got word that he would be the exercise director back in March. In Jackson's eyes, the opportunity to serve whenever his Atlanta based Navy Reserve unit calls on him is an honor.
"I was excited about coming out to this part of the world and leading a group of folks," said Jackson. "Obviously, I was little bit nervous about the magnitude of the role, but very excited."
Under Jackson's watch are more than 300 maritime forces from 13 nations participating in the exercise, including active and reserve sailors. Stretching across a vast East African region, exercise teams execute illegal fishing, counter narcotics and piracy scenarios in four locations: Djibouti, Djibouti; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Mombasa, Kenya and Port Victoria, Seychelles.
At the Seychelles Coast Guard Base, another room full of faces from Mauritius, Seychelles, and the East African Standby Force (EASF) listen intently to one person, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Theresa Able. Able is a reservist from Aurora, Colo., leading a medical refresher course for VBSS teams.
"Who has had basic first-aid classes?" Able asked the group.
As a former medical assistant for Colorado Neurology Specialists in Aurora, she brings additional skills and experiences from her civilian job that proves useful in the medical course she's leading.
"At home, when patients come into the office, they usually have a million questions because they are finally seeing the specialists," said Able. "They ask me what all the medical terms mean. I explain things to them so they understand and are at ease. I talk to the students in this class like I do with my patients back home. I would rather them feel comfortable to ask questions. It provides room for an open discussion and [an environment conducive] to learning."
Able is familiarizing boarding teams with injuries that can occur during ship boarding. The participants will have a simulated medical casualty during their VBSS drills, so they have to be ready to properly handle the casualty. The class covers basic first-aid, how to treat possible injuries in triage and how to determine if someone needs to be medically evacuated.
"Most of our class hasn't even had basic CPR, so for them to see how to put a neck brace on or how to cover to a chest wound ... it was a real eye opener just to see that these injuries are treatable."
Able represents one of 19 Navy reservists working Cutlass Express 2013, which comprises half of the total U.S. Navy support of the exercise.
"Reservists assigned to support U.S. Sixth Fleet look forward to having the opportunity to lean forward and to support what the Navy is doing," said Jackson. "They just want to provide support to the mission, so that is very exciting for me and my other counterparts around the table."
Cutlass Express 2013 provides an opportunity for U.S., European, and East African nations to work-side-by-side, increasing integration when called to address real-world maritime threats.
Jackson sees the importance of this exercise.
"As I met with a couple of (VBSS) crews, got to shake hands and talk with them, and listen to how things went, I think we are accomplishing one of the things we wanted to do, which was interoperability and partnership," said Jackson. "That's why we are here. That is the goal of Cutlass Express 2013."
Back in the conference room, a chat screen pops up.
"Captain, looks like we just heard from Djibouti," reports the exercise deputy, Lt. Cmdr. Ramon Maldonado, another Navy reservist who lives in Conyers, Ga. "The last boat is in."
Everyone hears the magic words. Jackson tells everyone they can call it a day. The next few days will be filled with evaluations of how the exercise was executed and preps for Cutlass Express 2014.
Computers are unplugged and stowed away for the flight back home. As the exercise comes to an end, Jackson will take off his blue Navy working uniform and don another outfit - a suit and tie.
Back to business as usual.