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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Dec. 13, 2022

Support Equipment Program marks its first anniversary 

By Judy Silverstein, CG-4B Change Management Organization 

Much of the Coast Guard’s work is conducted on oceans and in waterways. And that work is impossible without the use of shoreside support equipment (SE). Whether using forklifts, telehandlers, trailers, or utility vehicles (including golf carts), nearly every Coast Guard mission relies on SE to succeed.  
 Crewmembers from Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg and the Coast Guard Cutter Joshua Appleby move a standard 7 X 17 lighted buoy via telehandler, Nov. 19. 2021. Support equipment helps get the mission accomplished. (USCG photo) Based on tested models from the surface and aviation communities, the Support Equipment Product Line (SEPL) launched last year. It allows the service to standardize equipment, maintenance, and training while providing technical assistance. 
Dave Merrill, aids to navigation (AtoN) specialist with the Office of Navigation Systems (CG-NAV), concurs. Merrill has worked his way up from deckhand to National AtoN School instructor. Now he sets policy and has seen SE from all angles. Merrill says the Support Equipment Program (SEP) is vital because it helps determine priorities, provides technical guidance on configuration and standardization, and can help resolve key issues. “It lends balance to resource allocation and centralizes support for the entire Coast Guard,” he noted.  
Initially, the program sought to understand and catalog existing SE. Beginning with weight handling equipment and material handling equipment (WHE/MHE) in the AtoN community, the program sent Asset Assessment Teams (AATs) to 119 Coast Guard units. Meetings with crews helped them identify, quantify, and assess existing SE. The next step was archiving this data to help operators, maintainers, and commanders communicate logistical needs. 
In 2022, the program also held seven Support Equipment Requirements Generation and Evaluation (SERGE) visits nationwide. These events allow the program to verify and evaluate equipment on site, while also listening to field operators describe their unique challenges. Program specialists then analyze data and determine the SE equipment needed in standard asset laydowns for each community. 
 A crewmember from the Coast Guard Cutter Gasconade unloads aids to navigation equipment using a forklift with a jib boom Sep. 26, 2022. The work was performed during a Support Equipment Requirements Generation and Evaluation (SERGE) event hosted by the Support Equipment Program. (USCG image)
“In the past, we always found a way to get the job done, but SE was one of the few programs without policy, tactics, techniques, process, standardization, training certification, qualifications, and standardization,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brian A. Day, AtoN officer at Sector Mobile, Alabama. He is proud that Sector Mobile was SE’s first visit in the field. 
Currently, the program is working on a standardized PQS and certification system, and basic equipment operation and safety standards. As equipment becomes standardized throughout the service, Force Readiness Command (FORCECOM) will develop fleet-specific training and performance support. 

That also appeals to Merrill. He says having a program is crucial for training, mission execution, and the safety of our crews. He adds that it is also welcome news for those who work with SE will eventually earn industry certifications – a good way to develop a skilled workforce. 
Based on field input, the SE program updated its digital technical and equipment authorization request (TEAR) form this year. Units are encouraged to submit the TEAR form with equipment questions, repair, or replacement needs, and/or when needing replacement SE. 
To request approval, you may submit the form here.   
The program plans to launch its second annual safety awareness campaign in March 2023. After a productive inaugural year, the workforce can expect three key developments from SEPL. First, the program will release a new Commandant Instruction (COMDTINST), including standards for qualifications, proficiency and lift procedures, that will incorporate best practices from both industry and Department of Defense partners. Stay tuned for asset laydowns for additional communities, including the Inland River Tender Fleet, warehouses and industrial facilities, and deployable specialized forces. Finally, the program will complete WHE/MHE data entry as the Coast Guard progresses toward total asset visibility.