Written by Petty Officer 1st Michael Anderson.
An armed criminal group has invaded the port. Their force, armed with conventional weapons as well chemical and radiological bombs, attacked the port facility in the middle of the night.
A quiet call goes out to the Coast Guard’s deployable specialized forces. Maritime Security Response Team and National Strike Force Atlantic Strike Team members mobilize to neutralize this threat.
Under the cover of darkness, the Maritime Security Response Team and Atlantic Strike Team receive intelligence and plan the operation. AST members assemble a decontamination station and recovery equipment as the MSRT commences its assault.
The team surges into the shipping hub. Short controlled bursts of gunfire echo through the container mazes as they neutralize the hostile forces. The team flows through and around buildings, up and over machinery, gear, containers and ships docked nearby. A precision marksmen observer team nearby provides an over watch.
The two deployable specialized forces conducted this training and joint exercise at the Center for National Response, a flexible weapons of mass destruction training complex that provides multi-scenario exercises for the military, first responders or joint operations. The CNR is an operational component of the Joint Interagency Training and Education Center operated by the Chief, National Guard Bureau and the adjutant general of West Virginia.
“The MSRT and NSF are both first responders to maritime terrorist situations,” said Capt. Brian Thompson, MSRT commanding officer. “Despite our different roles and missions in a response, Coast Guard men and women have an innate ability to seamlessly integrate operations.”
The Atlantic Strike Team provides highly trained, experienced personnel and equipment to minimize the adverse impact from oil discharges, hazardous materials releases and weapons of mass destruction incidents. It is a member of the National Strike Force which is comprised of a coordination center and three strike teams.
The MSRT’s mission is tactical; it is a ready assault force whose members are trained in maritime security, law enforcement boarding procedures, force protection and environmental hazards response within a tactical law enforcement operation.
Together, their capabilities to combat chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats form a unique force.
As they secure each criminal, the MSRT members take CBRNE readings and mark hot spots including training radiation source material supplied by the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office. The team also collects samples, makes presumptive identification of chemical warfare agents and collects spectra with specialized detection and identification equipment unique to the MSRT.
Strike team members are able to now safely move throughout the facility. They use national databases to identify the multiple hazardous materials including the specific isotopes of multiple radiation sources. This information is used to plan mitigation strategies and determine where the materials originated from.
“The NSF has been operational for more than 30 years,” said Cmdr. Eric Doucette, the strike team’s commanding officer. “The MSRT is the first unit outside of the strike teams to have a robust CBRNE capability. It’s important to train, coordinate and work together so the Coast Guard is ready to respond to chemical, biological or radiological threats.”
The strike team then shifts into recovery mode. They monitor, contain and mitigate the hazardous materials in order to protect public health and the environment. Utilizing this as an opportunity to use newly procured Level “B” suits, as well as new radiation detection equipment, they provide a robust decontamination line to facilitate personnel safely exiting the simulated contaminated environment.
“The NSF and MSRT are the Coast Guard’s premiere CBRNE teams,” said Capt. Gene Gray, commander of the Coast Guard’s Deployable Operations Group. “Together, they give the United States the unique ability to engage a maritime homeland security crisis, stop the terrorists and mitigate, contain and dispose of hazardous materials that could have been used in an attack.”