The Coast Guard didn’t have a significant presence in the nation’s capital until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Today, it’s typical to see a Coast Guard helicopter or boat enforcing a security zone, patrolling the Potomac River or guarding the National Capital Region.
Post 9/11, what began as a Boat Forces unit in the Washington, D.C. area became a fully staffed and equipped Coast Guard Station. Officially commissioned on September 23, 2003, Station Washington became the newest station on the Coast Guard’s roster of small boat stations.
The unit’s mission is clear – to deter, detect, and defend against terrorism attacks against the National Capital Region.
Whether it is a routine training mission or a large joint maritime operation like the 56th Presidential Inauguration, according to Lieutenant Jason Hagen, the Commanding Officer at Station Washington, “having the monuments visible out of the corner of our eyes every time we get underway reminds us how vital our role is in protecting the nation’s capital.”
The station is outfitted with four 25-foot response boats and a crew of 30 Coast Guard active duty members, 21 reservists and over 100 auxiliary volunteers. The station’s area of responsibility covers a 40-nautical-mile portion of the Potomac River and a portion of the Anacostia River.
The National Capital Region may not be overwhelming in geographic size but it is unlike any other Coast Guard operational area. LT Hagen said, it is a, “fast paced, high visibility area with lots of moving parts.”
Along with the traditional roles of a Coast Guard station including search and rescue, boating safety, pollution response, maritime law enforcement and homeland security, Station Washington also works alongside a multitude of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
“We work with partner agencies on a daily basis under various missions whether it is a SAR case or a law enforcement operation,” said LT Hagen. “We couldn’t do our job without them.”
Initially, the station operated out of a trailer on Bolling Air Force Base, but today it has grown into a 4,100 square-foot building. The structure includes office space, a communications center, a multi-purpose training room, crew work room, storage and showering facilities. Phase two of construction will expand the building by another 4,000 square-feet and include crew berthing and a state-of-the-art boat maintenance facility. Station Washington marks the first time the Coast Guard has owned an operational facility in the National Capital Region.
“The building has provided the crew with individual work spaces along with the technology needed to stay connected,” said LT Hagen. “The new radio tower installed next to the building has greatly improved our communications capability. Our boats can communicate up and down the river with the boating public, other Coast Guard assets and agency partners.”