A 74-year-old man recently jumped from a small US Coast Guard boat onto a Chinese-flagged fishing boat off Fiji. His willingness to help his country and ability to speak two languages put him alongside the active Coast Guard Cutter Munro team who ensured he continued safely. He smiled and greeted his new friend, Lin, a 64-year-old woman who had just taken the same jump.
Willem Loupatty and Hua Lin McCaffrey joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary with a vision to volunteer to support boating safety in their local communities. Both had an idea of what the Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Auxiliary did. They had seen their little orange boats at the marina, checking that people leaving had enough life jackets.
“I thought I’d give some basic sailing lessons and maybe help with the boat parade next week,” laughed Loupatty.
“I joined to learn and help where I could,” McCaffrey said.
What none of the auxiliaries had anticipated was receiving a call requesting assistance with an active Coast Guard mission due to their ability to speak two languages.
Loupatty is fluent in Indonesian and McCaffrey is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.
The two soon found themselves alongside boarding officers from the Coast Guard Cutter Munro on the high seas in the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from the nearest US port.
Volunteers with skills like Loupatty and McCaffrey are in high demand in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, to help the Coast Guard detect and deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
IUU fishing is an ever-present threat to global maritime security. By undermining international agreements and fisheries conservation measures, IUU fishing jeopardizes food security and economic security, with pronounced destabilizing effects on vulnerable coastal states. The US Coast Guard is responsible for patrolling the high seas in the Pacific Ocean, as well as the territorial waters of many Indo-Pacific countries, to help combat IUU fishing.
The Coast Guard relies heavily on the Coast Guard Auxiliary to tackle this daunting undertaking. The Auxiliary, comprised of approximately 40,000 volunteers across the United States, supports all active Coast Guard missions.
During Operation Blue Pacific, Coast Guard Cutter Munro’s 2022 spring patrol to combat IUU fishing in the Indo-Pacific, these two temporarily deployed auxiliaries were critical to the success of Munro’s mission.
Auxiliary Willem Loupatty, Vice Division Commander, Division 9, District 11 South, volunteered for a Coast Guard active duty solicitation to start aboard Munro for seven weeks as an Indonesian interpreter . Although many fishing vessel captains whom Munro met on the patrol spoke Mandarin Chinese, the fishermen on the boats sometimes spoke Indonesian. Loupatty played a critical role in communicating with crew members during several embarkations. Not only did his communication skills help put the fishermen at ease while Munro’s boarding crews did their jobs, but his conversational skills also helped Munro’s crew gather information about the environments at aboard fishing boats.
IUU fishing often occurs in concert with other illicit activities, including the atrocities of human trafficking and forced labor, and trafficking in illegal substances. Having Loupatty on the boardings better prepared Munro’s crew to detect any illegal activity, in addition to fishing violations.
Loupatty was born in the town of Ballikpapan on the island of Borneo, one of the approximately 13,000 islands that make up Indonesia.
“I came to the United States on a student visa in 1970,” Loupatty said. “I eventually joined the Marine Corps and through my service I became an American citizen.”
After six years in the Marines, Loupatty joined the army after realizing the service offered many maritime opportunities. He eventually achieved the rank of warrant officer and became commander of several patrol boats, where he served at sea during the Persian Gulf War.
After retiring from the army, Loupatty began a new career with the Army Corps of Engineers. But he said his passion for teaching keen sailors to sail, something he grew to love in the military, drove him to join the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
“When I volunteered for this deployment, I was excited,” laughed Loupatty. “But when I found myself on a small Coast Guard boat in an 8-foot swell, taking sea spray in my face and timing my jump to clear the gunwale of a 50-meter commercial fishing boat that was doing actively longlining for yellowfin tuna, I was like, ‘Okay, this is getting real, man.'”
Auxiliary Hua Lin McCaffrey, District 7, Division 9, Flotilla 1, Fort Myers Beach, is a retired civil engineer who lives in Fort Myers, Florida. She was born in Beijing, China. Like Loupatty, she came to the United States on a student visa, but to pursue a master’s degree in structural engineering at Cal State Polytechnic University on the Pomona campus. His student visa eventually resulted in a work visa. She became an American citizen after her marriage.
McCaffrey said she joined the auxiliary because of the options and learning opportunities she would have as a volunteer. But she was very surprised to learn of the possibility of serving as a volunteer interpreter.
“I didn’t sign up to be an interpreter, but I immediately discovered how much my skills as a fluent Mandarin Chinese speaker were appreciated and in demand,” McCaffrey said.
“The Coast Guard Auxiliary needs more Mandarin Chinese speakers. I encourage anyone with this skill to contact their local Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla to explore volunteer options. You do not need to own a boat or to have maritime experience to join you in. I had so much fun with my home flotilla and while on active duty in support of Operation Blue Pacific aboard Munro.
His skills in spoken interpretation and written translation from Mandarin were essential for Munro’s crew to carry out embarkations at sea. The majority of fishing vessels encountered by Munro had Mandarin-speaking captains. McCaffrey’s expertise was required first in Munro’s wheelhouse before each embarkation.
“There is a checklist of inquiries that the Coast Guard should ask a ship’s captain by radio before boarding,” McCaffrey said. “Prior to boarding, I radioed the captain of the ship and answered the required questions, with the assistance of Munro’s crew members.”
During dozens of embarkations on treacherous waters, in sweltering heat, McCaffrey’s endurance was just as paramount as his ability to interpret. But perhaps it was her interpersonal skills that stood out to the fishing boat captains and crews she met.
That’s what stood out to Munro’s team the most.
“She’s as snappy as an auxiliary can get,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Trey Lee, a member of the boarding party on Munro. “But what shines most about Ms. McCaffrey are her people skills. Captains and crew sometimes smiled and laughed when she conversed with them. This is a lot during these embarkations, which can be very stressful for captains and crews of fishing vessels, even those operating legally. They are in the middle of the ocean and suddenly our ship appears and we want to come on board, sometimes while they are actively fishing, trying to earn a living. Having someone like her who can talk to them is an absolute necessity, but having someone with her personality makes our team that much stronger. We’re here to keep everyone honest, and she’s able to explain that we help them when we enforce the laws. They understand that we are here to protect their way of life and the fish that support them.
Loupatty and McCaffrey, while only a few weeks on board, became part of Munro’s crew in a way that transcended their assigned mission.
“It was a pleasure to have these two special auxiliaries on board during my final weeks as commanding officer of this cutter, and to see them part of the Munro team,” said Capt. Blake Novak, commanding officer of Munro until as of May 20, 2022. “The Coast Guard will continue to tap into the diversity of backgrounds and skills of our members and the volunteers who support us. We will continue to work with our partners across Oceania to combat IUU fishing, to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Munro’s crew of approximately 150 sailors from Alameda, Calif. understands that mission success depends on how well they take care of each other. Loupatty and McCaffrey couldn’t have volunteered on a better boat.
|Date posted:||19.05.2022 14:51|
|Location:||ALAMEDA, CA, USA|
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