Operation Bold Alligator 2012, the largest amphibious assault exercise in a decade, has come to an end. Check out this last story in our coverage of the exercise, which features port security units working alongside Navy and Marine Corps forces.
Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Anderson, Deployable Operations Group.
Almost a week after Coast Guard Port Security Unit 308 arrived at Forward Operating Base Gallant, the rain had stopped and the sun was out. An old mud road ran past the woods down through rows of concertina wire and orange barricades to the base’s entrance.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Seth Headley, a maritime enforcement specialist and PSU 308 fire-team leader, stands the watch.
Headley and his fellow security division watchstanders have been staring down that same road, scanning the same perimeter and the surrounding treeline. The same people pass by every day: U.S. Navy Riverines and Marines, news reporters, host-nation contractors, citizens and protestors all have approached the gate. To break the monotony, watchstanders rotate positions and binoculars, to scan even farther down the road.
“Staying alert through the monotony is a big part of standing a good watch,” Headley said. “You can’t know everything going on outside the wire and you can’t get complacent. You have to proactively look for anything out of the ordinary and you have to examine the ordinary too.”
A white-powder circle near one of the barricades serves as a reminder to everyone of why it’s important to stand a vigilant watch. The spot marks where a woman stood requesting medical care before an improvised explosive device she carried detonated. Will there be another attack? The watchstanders only know they have to stay alert, protect themselves, the camp and their shipmates.
Headley looks through the binoculars and sees a silver sport utility vehicle making its way toward the base. The two men inside the vehicle drive to the base every day to perform maintenance on the sanitation system. Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Jares, a maritime enforcement specialist and security watchstander, approaches the vehicle as it pulls up. As he starts to check their identification, a cloud of smoke blasts out from under the truck.
It’s an improvised explosive device attack.
This is just one of the many scenarios port security units experienced during Operation Bold Alligator. By the end of the exercise, they would weather simulated explosive devices, fight off sniper fire and hostile boats, work with host-nation authorities and provide medical assistance to host-nation citizens. While watchstanders worked to secure the base, boat crews secured the port.
Port security unit boat crews, conducting operations on Bogue Sound, had unique scenarios of their own to carry out.
Gray boats skim across the water, dodging and weaving as they switch formations. The crews, wearing black and green survival gear, hunker down during the tight turns; tactical harnesses keeping them safely in their boats. Navy Riverine boats swoop in and the two formations merge. Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Swetavage, a coxswain with Port Security Unit 307, maneuvers his boat into formation.
“While deployed overseas, we normally conduct operations with the Navy’s Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadrons; their capabilities and structure are similar to our own,” Swetavage said. “This has been a great opportunity to work with the Riverines. We realized early on that our capabilities are different, but they are complimentary.”
Coast Guard boat crews provided port security around the sound, collected intelligence and responded to reports of terrorist threats. They also escorted high value assets in and out of the area.
“Escorting ships and protecting infrastructure is the primary mission of the PSUs,” Swetavage said. “During Bold Alligator, we provided security for a number of amphibious ships transiting the area. Opposing forces in their own boats and on shore attempted to break the security zones, gather intelligence and cause damage to U.S. vessels and personnel. We countered those threats.”
Throughout Operation Bold Alligator, port security unit personnel worked closely with Navy and Marine personnel to defeat every threat they encountered. Because of standard equipment and training, the four port security units fused together seamlessly, preparing them for mission success in future deployments.