News: Relentless service
Story by Sgt. Darron Salzer
NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - The men and women of the Maritime Security Detachment, members of Port Security Unit 301, hold watch over the water much like their counterparts do along the wire.
But like many things at GTMO, their mission is multi-faceted.
“Our primary focus is to provide anti-terrorism force protection patrols offshore and to ensure that the area adjacent to the commissions’ area is secure throughout the duration of commissions,” said Coast Guard Master Chief Karl Brobst, the senior enlisted leader of the MARSECDET.
“A secondary mission of ours is providing transportation across the water for any distinguished visitors to GTMO,” Brobst said. “We try to do that so they don’t have to wait for the ferry.”
Additionally, the MARSECDET will escort ship traffic in and around the Bay when necessary.
“We patrol all over the Bay, and most of what we see are boats from the marina,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicholas Newhall, boatswain’s mate and tactical crewmember. “Occasionally we’ll escort barges moving through the Bay to the Cuban villages on the other side of the northern boundary. We will also escort Coast Guard cutters coming into port from time to time as well.”
Since they arrived, the Coast Guardsman of the MARSECDET have worked to fully integrate themselves into the joint mission of GTMO, working more closely with their land-side counterparts towards a better understanding of capabilities.
“One way we are building this better understanding is by taking members of the guard force within the Joint Detention Group on a patrol with us so that they can see what capabilities we have when they see us out on the water from their fighting posts on shore,” Brobst said. “They reciprocate by taking our troopers and placing them in their fighting posts and giving our guys that point of view.”
“By having a working relationship with them, we can better understand the capabilities of one another and how our policies and procedures can function as one,” he said.
Brobst said the relationship being fostered would greatly enhance the force protection capabilities of both landside and waterside security elements.
“It’s about building a better team and working closely to better understand one another is a critical aspect of that process,” he said.
Operating small watercraft near shorelines for over 200 years, Brobst believes it is the Coast Guardsman of PSU 301 who is uniquely suited for the maritime mission within the Joint Task Force.
“Currently we operate the 25-foot transportable port security boats, and these watercraft are extremely fast and extremely maneuverable,” he said. “We also have a couple of the newer 32-foot boats, a more stable platform that has a greater amount of endurance on the sea. We feel that the newer boats will greatly enhance our ability to work here along the coastline, allowing us to stay on-scene for much longer and mitigate crew fatigue from the constant pounding our troopers take when they are on the water.”
As a constant concern, Brobst said the Coast Guardsman of the MARSECDET take numerous measures to combat crew fatigue and complacency while on the water.
“A lot of times the coxswain will do random training scenarios while underway,” he said. “It not only breaks up the monotony, but it helps to make the members of the boat crew more proficient in their skills.”
“We train daily for things such as a man overboard, loss of communication drills and crew casualties,” he continued. “It becomes second nature after a while, and by continuing to drill and train it makes times of stress in real-world situations manageable.”
According to Brobst, there are three positions on the small boats used by the MARSECDET: coxswain, engineer and crewmember.
“All off these positions are attainable through training and testing,” he said, “and every six months each person has to perform additional tasks to show that they are still proficient in their job.”
“Training is consistent, and we are able to capitalize on the opportunity to not only perform our mission, but to constantly take advantage of the real-world training opportunity afforded us here at GTMO,” he said.
With a highly trained, mobile and capable force on the water, the MARSECDET has become an integral part of the JTF mission.
“If anything were to happen here, us being out on the water as that first line of defense is a pretty important part of the total security mission here,” Newhall said.