PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- In an effort to fully utilize security resources on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH), a select few of Air Force security members will soon be eligible for Navy Coxswain qualifications, thanks to a new Joint Base training program initiative.
"If we are truly going to be a Joint Base, then we can't have just Airmen on the airfield and Sailors on the boats. There should be a mix," said Senior Chief Master-at-Arms Adam Singleton, leading chief petty officer for JBPHH harbor patrol unit. "So, we are working on presenting a proper training pipeline to get an Airman qualified as a coxswain for our harbor security team."
The program will allow a small handful of Senior Airmen from the 647th Security Forces group to obtain Level 1 coxswain qualifications, and join the harbor security team that patrol and escort Navy vessels in and out of the harbor on JBPHH.
Since each harbor patrol boat crew includes a coxswain driving the vessel and crewmen manning gun or operating as backup, Airmen had to receive crewmen qualifications first in order to be eligible for coxswain certifications.
According to Singleton, out of 18 Air Force Defenders who initially showed interest, only four Airmen first classes were chosen for the six-month pilot program. Selectees had to undergo a basic eye exam, pass a 2nd Class swim qualification test and also attend additional weapons training sessions.
Next, they set out to receive their crewmen qualifications: a basic boating course which introduced them to nautical terminology, basics about watercraft equipment and maintenance, as well as harbor rules and regulations.
Once they became qualified crewmembers, the Airmen were then paired up with seasoned Level 1 and 2 Coxswains to perform more than 100 hours of experience behind the helm of a Navy vessel before they will be allowed to test for Coxswain Qualification.
Master-at-arms 1st Class Billy Boyd, a Level 2 coxswain and one of the harbor boat training supervisors, said with more than 16 years in the U.S. Navy, he treats the young Airmen just like any other new Sailor reporting for duty on the waterfront.
"We've been working with them on landing the vessel on a pier and they were fast learners that showed confidence in their abilities," the San Diego native said. "After only a few attempts they were safely operating the boat and ready to learn more."
Boyd said he is optimistic the pilot program will be successful, as well as beneficial to JBPHH.
"I believe this is the right direction for a joint command to work together and hopefully will continue in the future."
Airman 1st Class Gianni Santa Cruz said he jumped at the opportunity to learn something new outside his normal line of duties.
"I consider it a huge honor to have the chance to work alongside the Harbor Patrol Unit at the world-renowned duty station Pearl Harbor," said the Riverside, Califonia native. "I was definitely excited about the new training and experience. I was just hoping I would not get seasick," he said.
To date, all of the Airmen have received their crewmen qualifications and are currently working on getting their 100 hours of time on the waterfront before a written test and check ride with other seasoned coxswains can be conducted for their Level 1 Coxswain qualifications.
"The biggest thing we are working on now is getting familiar with harbor area, the nomenclature, and their confidence of driving the boats and making approaches to and from the pier," Singleton said. "Just like driving a car, it is going to take practice. But in general, everyone is excited about this fairly new idea and I look forward to the day I can say I have four Airmen Defenders as qualified Coxswains."
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