From California to Korea: Coast Guard Auxiliarist provides vital skills for exercise

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Auxilliarist Greg Fucci receives an award from Coast Guard Rear Adm. Karl Schultz, commander, 11th Coast Guard District during a ceremony on Aug. 9, 2013. Photo courtesy of Greg Fucci

Edited by Petty Officer 3rd Class Connie Gawrelli and Lt. Eric VanVelzen

What happens when the next major hurricane hits, sparking a massive search and rescue effort or another big oil spill occurs and the Coast Guard needs to quickly move people and equipment to respond?

 What if there’s a crisis on the Korean peninsula and the Department of Defense calls on the Coast Guard to assist?

 There’s a plan for that. To help create and carry out such plans there are people like Coast Guard Auxiliarist Gregory Fucci.

 With more than 40 years of Coast Guard service aboard cutters and at harbor defense and port security units, Fucci has a skill set few Coast Guardsmen possess. His extensive Coast Guard expeditionary warfare and overseas deployment experience, combined with his training as a hazardous material (HAZMAT) subject matter expert and an airlift load planner, made him an ideal candidate to deploy with Coast Guard Port Security Unit 313 from Everett, Wash., to Pohang, Republic of Korea. 

The PSU was chosen to deploy to support the Combined Joint Logistics Over the Shore (C/JLOTS) exercise. C/JLOTS is part of the DOD exercise Foal Eagle, one of the largest military exercises in the world. The eight-week, annual exercise is aimed at improving logistics interoperability, communication and cooperation between the U.S. and South Korea.

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Auxilliarist Fucci in an Air Force C-5 returning to Travis Air Force Base after participating in loadout exercise Patriot Hook. (File photo circa 2008)

 Just when he thought everything in order, the plan changed. Instead of being sent by air, the six 32-foot Transportable Port Security Boats, two trucks, 148,000 pounds of equipment and the HAZMAT would have to travel by sea. Everything had to be trucked from McChord Air Force Base in Washington to the Port of Oakland in California to be loaded onto commercial sealifts and the paperwork had to be changed.

But at least once that was done it would be good to go, right? Wrong again. The cargo was split among four different ships, one of which wasn’t going to arrive until after the exercise was complete.

“We set up a command center in my hotel room and started to work the problem,” Fucci said.

Fucci was a key member of the PSU’s Advanced Echelon (ADVON), a small, handpicked team who arrived ahead of the rest of the unit to ensure all the preparations were complete. Once the ADVON arrived in Korea, he worked to locate all the unit equipment, either getting it delivered or having it moved from the delivery point to the exercise location.

After coordinating with Coast Guard Pacific Area’s Contingency Planning section, the Deployable Operations Group (DOG), the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), Travis Air Force Base’s 60th Aerial Port Squadron and the Army’s 599th Transportation Brigade, Fucci and the ADVON team were able to coordinate the “rescue” of the equipment and have it delivered in time for the exercise.

Fucci was also the key point of contact for keeping PACAREA, the DOG and the TRANSCOM staff updated on the equipment arrival dates and operational status.

“His contributions were instrumental to the success of the exercise and the first Coast Guard deployment to Korea since 2006,” said Lt. Eric VanVelzen, the Defense Readiness Section chief at PACAREA. “His dedication during the exercise is just one of many reasons he was also chosen as the Pacific Central Region Navy League’s Coast Guard Auxiliarist of the year.”

After his trip to Korea, Fucci went back to work at Redondo Union High School and continues his service with the Auxiliary by standing duty as an Air Station Los Angeles operations duty officer where he is often the first to receive initial notifications of persons in distress and law enforcement missions.