News: Cape Cod Coast Guardsmen support 2014 JLOTS exercise in Anchorage, Alaska
Story by Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Coast Guard reservists assigned to Port Security Unit 301 in Cape Cod, Mass., provided Port Security and communications support in Anchorage, Alaska, during the National Exercise Program’s Capstone Exercise 2014.
The exercise, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the magnitude 9.2 Good Friday Earthquake that struck Alaska on March 27, 1964, was designed to test the ability of local, state and federal response agencies to respond to the same disaster using modern equipment and techniques.
During the exercise, the Port of Anchorage, which processes approximately 90 percent of all cargo arriving in Alaska, was heavily damaged by the simulated earthquake and knocked out of commission.
In order to deliver relief supplies to the state and those affected by the earthquake the Department of Defense deployed their Joint Logistics Over the Shore equipment, which allows DOD personnel to transfer equipment, fuel and supplies from ships at sea to shore in areas where when port facilities are nonexistent, damaged or too primitive.
As the DOD personnel conducted their JLOTS cargo delivery mission, PSU 301 provided round the clock security protection for DOD assets and personnel.
“Protecting the nation’s Marine Transportation System is one of the Coast Guard’s oldest primary missions,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Haynie, executive officer of Port Security Unit 301. “During this exercise we were responsible for providing port security and communications support for all Coast Guard and DOD assets operating in the port.”
Upon arriving in Anchorage, PSU 301 personnel began devising their operational plan.
“One of our first priorities when we arrived in Alaska focused on developing a first class security protection plan for the Port of Anchorage,” said Lt. Matthew Gilbert, shore side security division officer, PSU 301. “This included establishing and manning checkpoints at entryways to the port, deploying personnel to conduct roving patrols of the facilities and monitoring the buses being used to shuttle DOD personnel to and from the port facilities.”
The deployment provided plenty of challenges for members of PSU 301. In addition to combating the weather and adapting their tactics to meet operational changes taking place in the port, PSU 301 personnel followed a robust training schedule, which included classroom instruction and real life scenarios. This allowed members with civilian law enforcement backgrounds and prior deployment experience to share their knowledge with their shipmates and then test them on how they would respond to real life security issues and threats.
“Our goal during the training sessions was to provide our personnel with personal and professional growth opportunities,” said Gilbert. “The safe learning environment allowed us to challenge our personnel to respond to different, real world, security scenarios they may encounter. This allows our personnel to gain valuable confidence and experience so that they are better prepared to do their job when they deploy in support of real world operations.”
While the security plan was be implemented at the port, the communications personnel were busy assembling their equipment and linking it with existing Coast Guard resources.
“We brought our entire communications package, consisting of antennas, radios, and other equipment, from Cape Cod,” said Lt. Anthony Ruffini, the PSU’s communications division officer. “By integrating our equipment with Coast Guard Sector Anchorage’s we successfully served as the communication hub for the Army, Navy and Coast Guard elements exercise.”
This equipment was crucial to providing timely updates to the JLOTS operational commander and ensuring the safe coordination of operations involving PSU personnel, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage watchstanders, DOD assets and the personnel working in the JLOTS Joint Operation Center. In order to achieve this seamless integration between different operational elements the PSU communications personnel continually train to maintain their skills.
While the Coast Guard may be the smallest of the nation’s five military services, all of its members train constantly in order to deploy in support of the Coast Guard’s statutory missions. This is extremely critical when it comes to PSU 301 members who are required to be ready to deploy to support missions within 96 hours of being notified.
With that in mind PSU301 takes a very long-term approach to ensuring its members are always ready.
“Our members are required to identify and plan their training courses three years into the future,” said Lt. Cmdr. David Uhl, force readiness officer for PSU 301. “This benefits the command by allowing us to develop our training budget and school quotas. It really benefits our members by allowing them to grow professionally and remain competitive for advancement.”
At the close of their deployment, members were relieved to be returning home to loved ones and felt a sense of pride for the positive impact they had made on the JLOTS DOD commanders.
“This exercise provided us with an opportunity to showcase the real world skills and capabilities we provide,” said Ruffini. “When operational commanders see us in action they gain a better understanding of the unique skill sets we bring to the table and it shows how we can be incorporated, as an operational resource, into their tactical playbook.”