Graduates of the latest four-week training course on search and rescue and counter-narcotics operations were presented with certificates by Armed Forces Commander Brigadier Carmelo Vassallo and US Ambassador Molly Bordanaro, during a graduation ceremony held at the AFM’s Luqa Barracks.
Parliamentary Secretary Tony Abela from the Office of the Prime Minister was also present.
The course was held at the AFM’s Search and Rescue Training Centre in Safi Barracks, and the students came from Albania, Cameroon, Croatia, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya and Malta.
“This is the fourth ceremony of its kind. This time, however, in consultation with the OPM and the US Embassy, it was decided to invite distinguished guests who, directly or indirectly, could be interested in what the AFM is doing in the maritime SAR sector, what the AFM SAR Training Centre stands for and what it does on the local and regional levels,” said Brigadier Vassallo.
Ambassador Bordanaro told the graduates: “You arrived here from all points of the globe - from Albania, Cameroon, Croatia, Equatorial Guinea and Kenya – charged by your countries to learn about search and rescue best practices used by Malta and the United States. You will now be able to apply that knowledge to your regions of responsibility in the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas, the Gulf of Guinea, and the western Indian Ocean. Today’s graduation ceremony is one more step in making our seas, and our countries, and our homes safe.
“From a humble beginning of four international students in the first SAR-TC class, Malta has now trained over 30 foreign students from 15 countries. To quote Alexander Dumas, nothing succeeds like success. I applaud your efforts and am pleased to see them produce such outstanding results.”
Ambassador Bordanaro also thanked the officers of the AFM who taught the class: Major Alex Dalli, Major Andrew Mallia, Captain Clinton O’Neill, Captain Anthony Zammit, Warrant Officer Stephen Spiteri-Staines, and retired Warrant Officer Stephen Farrugia, as well as the Defence Attache’s office within the US Embassy, the new Coast Guard Attache, Commander Sean Schenk, for coordinating student travel and course logistics and the US Coast Guard Lieutenant Sean Baer for coming all the way from Washington DC to teach the class about trends in counter narcotics and human smuggling and also the international law of the sea.
Training at the SAR-TC is modelled on US Coast Guard methodology and updated to International Aeronautical and Maritime SAR Manual standards. Since 2006, the SAR Training Centre has opened its doors to other countries seeking the specialised four-week training. In partnership with the United States Coast Guard, the AFM now offers three courses per year to maritime officers from all over the world.
Funding for the training is provided by the US, and to date 30 students from all over the world have been fully trained at the centre. The US provides financial and administrative assistance, allowing foreign students to attend the SAR-TC on full scholarship. More than 80 AFM personnel, some of whom now maintain a constant SAR watch at the AFM Rescue Coordination Centre, have also been trained there.