MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (Aug. 11, 2011) --
Kicking in doors and storming buildings is not the mission of most Coast Guardsmen. Yet, the Coast Guard’s Port Security Unit 301 learned these skills and other small unit combat tactics from 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point July 31 – Aug. 9.
“The Coast Guard is more thought of as a domestic agency,” said the Petty Officer 1st Class David C. Gustafson, a boatswain’s mate for PSU 301. “There are a lot of mission skill sets that we can provide overseas. There aren’t a lot of port security units and they come in handy. Our skill set where we can pack up and move our entire unit is unique within the Coast Guard.”
PSU 301 is a Coast Guard unit that can deploy anywhere in the world within 96 hours to guard American maritime assets. Typically, they guard the ports where supplies are offloaded prior to being sent through the supply chain to frontline units.
“Our mission, as originally designed, is to marry up with prepositioned equipment so we can protect the ships bringing in supplies through the port,” said Cmdr. Paul J. Smith, commanding officer of PSU 301. “If you think back to the pictures of the USS Cole with the big hole in the side of it, this unit is designed to prevent that from ever happening.”
There is the possibility of combat with the job. Therefore, Coast Guard personnel have to train appropriately. Because the training was already taking place aboard Cherry Point, 2nd LAAD Marines were asked to help.
“Our land-based personnel must be able to perform security missions, either by defending our camp if we’re forward deployed or setting up security for the port itself,” said Smith. “The Marines are some of the best at that and we’re giving our people a good dose of Marine training. They’re doing everything from martial arts to small unit tactics.”
In addition to learning from 2nd LAAD, PSU 301 also made use of the air stations BT-9 and BT-11 bombing ranges for machine gun and grenade launcher qualifications aboard security boats. As a unit that can be deployed at any time, they must keep their skills sharp.
Preparing for overseas combat operations requires a strong supporting infrastructure. Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 and the Navy Boat Docks both assisted with the operation. The Navy lent a boat and the camping area while MWSS-274 offered a high standard of field living.
“We knew we were going to be roughing it for a couple of weeks,” said Gustafson. “MWSS-274 has been nothing but ultra-professional and very good hosts. They have set up systems that we don’t have like the water purification, showers and laundry. We’re more effective because of the services they provide.”\
In thanks for all the support, PSU 301 showed the support units what they do best. They took 2nd LAAD, MWSS-274 Marines and boat docks Sailors on machine gun shoots at BT-11, giving them each a taste of the PSU job. The cross training has given the participants a new appreciation for each other’s capabilities.
The Coast Guard students realized the value of 2nd LAAD’s training as many of the lessons came from frontline combat experience. According to Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael R. Messier, a reservist with PSU 301, having such good quality teachers will make their job easier when they do deploy.
“It’s a good experience to learn a little bit of their job and they got to see what we do in case we’re tasked together,” said Cpl. Tyler J. Borth, a team leader for 2nd LAAD. “If we are, then we can go forth and get the mission done. With the infantry knowledge we trained them on, I would feel safe if I was deployed with them.”