02 October, 2023
Leading Chef Monique Manuel and Able Chef Alice Wyatt are the first in what is likely to be a long-standing exchange agreement between the Coast Guard and the RNZN. The pair joined USCGC Stratton in Hawaii for a Western Pacific patrol from April to July.
ACH Wyatt says she had asked to do a foreign exchange. “I wanted to see how other navies do things, and experience life on board another country’s ship.” When the offer came up, her friend LCH Manuel jumped at the opportunity as well.
The pair helped provide daily meals to Stratton’s 150 crewmembers.
ACH Wyatt says the differences in catering was the biggest eye-opener for both of them. “We certainly learned about cooking Mexican food. They have Taco Tuesdays every week, and they are fond of burritos and chilies.” It wasn’t possibly to cook a pavlova, but they tried their best to organise a roast lamb meal, something not the norm for Americans. When the wrong cuts of meat came in, the pair settled for lamb pies, which were declared delicious by the crew.
“We both fitted in well,” says ACH Wyatt. “Honestly, we got treated so well, we felt super-welcomed. The crew don’t know much about New Zealand, they think we come from the middle of nowhere. They would shout: ‘The Kiwis!’ when they saw us.”
The exchange included port visits to Tokyo, Singapore and the Philippines. “It was a great trip, with lots of really cool port visits and heaps of time in port.”
Captain Brian Krautler, Commanding Officer of Stratton, said they were excited to have them as part of the crew.
“The crew was able to learn about their customs and courtesies as well as New Zealand traditions, plus we were able to enhance their experience while underway on an American ship.”
In May the US Coast Guard and Royal New Zealand Navy signed a memorandum of agreement detailing processes that enable the exchange of military personnel to enhance joint service objectives. There is another exchange underway and there are plans for more.
For Commander Costa Papadopoulos, Director of Strategic Engagement for the Royal New Zealand Navy, the opportunity for personnel to deploy for an extended period of time with the US Coast Guard is an incredibly valuable learning experience.
“Sailors join the navy to go to sea, to experience new things outside their shore-based environment and to contribute to mission success,” says CDR Papadopoulos. “The strength of this military exchange is that it exposes our people to different perspectives and broadens their horizons. I’m sure they’ve come back to us with new-found knowledge, confidence and skills.”