NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN (April 2, 2019) – “In 1954, the United States executed Operation Passage to Freedom to evacuate hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilians, including my four grandparents, from North Vietnam to South Vietnam at the end of the First Indochina War.”
This is the story told by U.S. Marine Capt. Kiet Nguyen, a plans officer with Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade’s Plans Directorate.
“In 1975, my father fled his home in Saigon, South Vietnam, during Operation Frequent Wind, a noncombatant evacuation operation of American citizens and South Vietnamese fleeing civil and political unrest,” Nguyen said. “He hopped across several U.S. refugee camps from the former U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay in the Phillippines, Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California.”
“A few years later, my mother and hundreds of thousands of other ‘Vietnamese boat people’ (as they are described by historians now) embarked on a perilous passage by sea to the United States while fleeing persecution, facing starvation and piracy, and looking for opportunity,” Nguyen explained further of his family’s history.
As he remembers his family’s history, he connects it to the work he performs in the Plans Directorate at TF 51/5, noting that there is a vivid sense of realism between the two. Growing up hearing these stories of struggle, perseverance, and hope are what inspired Nguyen to serve in the military, and why his work today is so personal to him.
“Whether it is planning for crisis response operations to support the evacuation of at-risk personnel or cooperating with foreign nationals to foster greater regional security and cross-cultural understanding, we have the unique ability and greater call to make a lasting, positive impact on generations of people around the world.”
Task Force 51/5 provides command and control of integrated Navy-Marine Corps amphibious forces. The unit serves as Marine and Naval Forces – U.S. Central Command’s standing headquarters for crisis response and entrusted with synchronizing forces across the areas of responsibility for unity of effort, which provides the CENTCOM commander an integrated headquarters with flexible and deliberate response options at sea, from the sea and ashore.
“Our planning team is focused on figuring out where the next crisis might take place, and how TF 51/5 will likely respond,” said Nguyen. “Additionally, we’re tasked with developing concepts of operations in response to a set of crises and the plans to move and maneuver various elements toward an objective area. In addition to crisis response planning, we are focused on other long range planning to include Theater Security Cooperation exercises and advancing Naval concepts.”
Task Force 51/5 integrates land and sea-based Marine Air-Ground Task Forces that conduct amphibious operations within the region and provide the ability for rapid operational movement of forces, while providing shore-based crisis response capabilities.
“We’re a mixed group of advanced military planners, operations and research analysts, senior political and cultural advisors, and seasoned service members from the Navy, Marine Corps, and U.K. Royal Marines,” said Nguyen. “I collaborate with incredibly intelligent and devoted professionals in our directorate. It is a very humbling experience.”
A native of San Jose, California, Nguyen earned a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. In his spare time he enjoys playing basketball, reading, and learning new languages.
For more information about TF 51/5 please contact TF 51/5 Public Affairs Officer, Navy Lt. Tia Nichole McMillen at TiaNichole.McMillen@me.usmc.mil or Marine Corps Capt. Adam Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.