Maritime Security

By Kennedy, Harold | National Defense, November 2004 | Go to article overview
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Maritime Security

Kennedy, Harold, National Defense

Coast Guard Expands Joint Anti-Terrorism Training

The U.S. Coast Guard is preparing to break ground this month on a new $33 million facility that will significantly improve its ability to train military personnel in maritime security tactics.

The training site is located on the waterfront of the Marine Corps' massive base at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The Coast Guard in July awarded a $22 million contract to the Roy Anderson Corp. of Gulfport, Miss., to build a headquarters building and a classroom facility for its Special Missions Training Center. It is scheduled for completion in 2006.

Camp Lejeune was chosen as the site for the center because of its easy access to the Atlantic Ocean and the waterside and military facilities already available there.

The Coast Guard established the center in 1998 to train its port-security units to protect U.S. shipping and harbor facilities, particularly those belonging to Navy forces in combat zones around the world. Its role, however, has expanded.

"After 9/11, we were tapped to provide initial, standup training for the maritime security and safety teams," said Lt. Arthur H. Gomez, the centers executive officer.

The center teaches crews of Coast Guard cutters to handle small, high-powered boats to chase down and board ships suspected of smuggling drugs, illegal immigrants, terrorists or weapons of mass destruction, he said.

Other military services, in addition, plan to use the center, said Bernie McGowan, a Battelle employee who serves as the facility's special projects officer.

At the center, the Navy is offering courses for its maritime security forces, and the Marines plan to teach their troops the small-craft aspects of force protection and intercepting enemy watercraft, starting this fall.

The Army and Air Force, which also employ small boats for force protection in some locations near water, also are eyeing the facility, as are other agencies of the Department of Homeland Security, state and local law-enforcement services and even foreign military organizations.

Bringing all of these units together to learn maritime security "is one of the best things that we've done for the country," said Chief Boatswain's Mate Keith Basilicis, who runs the centers transportable port-security boat course.

One of the challenges the center is facing, McGowan said, is defining a standard operating procedure for maritime security. "We didn't have any SOP," he said. "What I do is write it as they do it."

At the moment, the center is focusing on training the Coast Guard's maritime security and safety teams, which are "our version of special ops," Adm. Thomas H. Collins, Coast Guard commandant, told National Defense. "They have special capabilities that we can apply to enhance the security of this nation."

The MSSTs are quick-response forces designed to provide waterborne and shore-side antiterrorism protection for strategic shipping, high-interest vessels, and critical infrastructure primarily within the United States. They train to deploy nationwide, via air, ground or sea. One team, based at Galveston, Texas, has sent members to assist peacekeeping operations in Haiti and to provide security for Navy vessels at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Coast Guard plans to establish 13 MSSTs, each with approximately 70 active-duty and 30 Reserve members, at major U.S. ports, Collins said. Eight of the 13 are already fielded. In addition to Galveston, they are located in Chesapeake, Va.; St. Mary's, Ga.; Seattle, Wash.; Boston, Mass.; New York City, N.Y., and in California, Los Angeles and San Francisco .

One team-to be based in New Orleans-now is training at the center, and four more are scheduled to stand up by years end. They will be located in Honolulu, Hawaii; San Diego, Calif; Anchorage, Alaska, and Miami, Fla.

Courses at the center are designed to transform ordinary "Coasties," as members of the Coast Guard are called, from workaday jobs, such as electricians and mechanics, into maritime security specialists.

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