The area of responsibility for the United States Coast Guard on Guam is vast, spanning  nearly 1.9 million square miles, which includes the waters off Guam, the CNMI, and the Federated States of Micronesia. It is the responsibility of the USCG fast response cutters to provide an array of tasks to keep our waters safe. 

On Guam, the currently three newly-commissioned US Coast Guard fast response cutters are named after Coast Guard heroes.  Lt. Jalle Merritt is the commanding officer for the Myrtle Hazard, which has a crew of about 24, which includes four officers, two chiefs, and several enlisted members. She says they have an all-encompassing mission.

"Fundamentally for this area we provide the search and rescue response, we also do expeditionary support and services to all the local countries that are around in this area. So if anyone is missing or regulate any type of fishing we provide that, as well," she said.

So who is Myrtle Hazard? "She happens to be named after our first enlisted woman in the service, so as you can imagine it is a pleasure for me to have taken command of," proudly said Merritt.

Which makes it even more significant for Merritt being a woman and serving at the helm of the Myrtle Hazard. "To be in this position and i'm equipped with a lot of authority and influence, really it's a privilege to represent the direction that our services are going in, there's a lot of hard work that's been put into people like me, I didn't magically just show up, there's  a lot of mentorship," she said.

Lt. Patrick Dreiss is the commanding officer for the Frederick Hatch. Hatch was a surfman and lighthouse keeper who was a two-time Gold Life Saving Medal recipient, which is the highest honor a U.S. citizen can receive for a rescue at sea. The area of responsibility for all three fast response cutters, as he said, "Extends all way through Micronesia, down towards Palau, up to the northern most islands of the CNMI."

Along with increasing the capabilities of the USCG, they also focus on maritime law enforcement.

"Enforcing the fisheries regulations, and ensure all of our partner nations like Guam and the CNMI are able to continue to be able to utilize the fish stocks in this area, it's so important," he added.

Originally from New York, Driess never imagined he would be here. "It's been an awesome experience the last seven months to learn about this area of the world, to learn about the culture and meet the people of Guam," he shared.

Capt Nicolas Simmons, Commander, USCG Forces Micronesia, Sector Guam, says that despite the amount of responsibility that the Coast Guard puts on the shoulders of these junior officers, they are always up for the challenge. "They've got small crews, but they're motivated and we found that many of them wanted to be here, they wanted to come to Guam they wanted to try something new, challenging far far away. They're super excited to be here. They are a tremendous blessing to the unit."

Lt. Freddy Hofschneider has been the commanding officer for the Oliver Henry since June.  Henry was the first African American Coast Guardsman who enlisted in 1940. And like the other two Coast Guard cutters, there is a crew of 24, for the Oliver Henry, there are a few locals serving aboard.

"This is my second time to be here on Guam," said Hofschneider, "but this one is more meaningful being the captain of the cutter. I'm originally from Tinian, so we've done operations near Tinian and Saipan, so it's definitely a dream come true doing something I never thought I'd be able to do. It's pretty awesome to work in the backyard of the place I grew up."

And if there is anything he would want to get out to those reading this, it's to consider the US Coast Guard.  "When you look at the islanders from the CNMI and Guam and Micronesia who join, they stay the full 20 years its a great return in investment of your time, your career and energy," he said.