Wednesday, January 20, 2016

AMIO

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the AMIO mission. AMIO is alien 
migrant interdiction operations -- we're making sure illegal immigrants don't 
complete their journey to the United States. My current thoughts on this are 
totally separate and aside from the entire immigration debate. I am doing my 
job. This is not the first time in my career that I have ambiguous feelings 
about the strategic national goal with which I am tasked to support. But I 
chose to serve my country and earn my living in this manner, so I am obligated 
to do the job. This is the first time I've done any AMIO though, so it's new 
to me.

We've picked up a couple groups of migrants from pieced-together vessels that 
are far from what the Coast Guard would normally call sea-worthy, especially 
for a journey of undetermined length, without sophisticated navigation devices 
beyond the GPS on a smartphone, open to the elements, with more people than 
should fit onboard. So far, the groups have been relatively small, less than a 
dozen people. We've also had over 100 migrants onboard from interdictions 
completed by other units that we held onboard while their disposition, 
typically repatriation to their country of origin, was worked through the 
regular channels.

Mostly, everyone we've picked up or taken from another ship has been 
cooperative, doing what we ask them without complaint. We haven't yet 
encountered what other units have: individuals that try to incite a riot 
onboard or hurt themselves to get medevac'ed or refuse to leave their vessel 
and abandon their quest for a better life (this trip) and actively resist our 
boarding team. Those things happen -- I know they do. They just haven't 
happened to us on this trip (yet).

One group of 10 people we picked up left their country 12 days before we found 
them. They left home the same day we left on patrol. A passenger on a cruise 
ship had passed close enough by them the night before we picked them up to 
hear their cries for help. They were out of water, and one of the two women 
onboard was severely dehydrated. Our corpsman gave her an IV with the 
assistance of a couple of our other crewmembers, and within two hours she was 
responding normally again and expressed her sincere gratitude for our 
assistance. Some of them have small bags with a few possessions with them, but 
not all of them. Some of them are carrying IDs, but not all of them. I've seen 
nearly emaciated frames, cuts and burns, and scars whose possible origins make 
me sad.

The AMIO mission is a humanitarian mission. We saved those 10 folks who were 
in the middle of a shipping lane, nearly getting run over by a cruise ship, 
going in the wrong direction -- away from land. Any land. We provide basic 
food, shelter and sanitation while they are onboard our vessel, and treat them 
with respect.

The AMIO mission is also a security mission. We don't know who the people are 
that are trying to get in, and them not going through the proper channels 
exposes our country to potential nefarious intent.

And I still see them as individuals, trying any way they can to make a better 
life for themselves. I try to imagine what circumstances would compel me to 
leave my home, my family, the world I've known my whole life on a dangerous 
journey at the mercy of the sea, unprepared and exposed, enroute a country 
that will send me back where I came from given half a chance.

And I fail. Maybe that's the greatest blind side of my birthright -- the 
inability to imagine such overwhelming personal hardship, while the greatest 
privilege is the opportunity to secure myself against desperation.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

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