This is part of a series highlighting the Coast Guard’s law enforcement missions and operations. Under 14 USC § 2, the U.S. Coast Guard is the only federal law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in both U.S. waters and on the high seas. The Coast Guard enforces U.S. laws and treaties focused on conducting multi-agency counterdrug operations, interdicting illegal migrants and contraband, protecting living marine resources, ensuring maritime homeland security and helping to stem weapons proliferation, among other critical tasks.
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Written by Lt. j.g. Antoine Adams
Quietly situated off a remote road in St. Marys, Georgia, Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST) Kings Bay is one of six Coast Guard Atlantic Area (LANTAREA) MSSTs. The building is unassuming when viewed from outside its compound, as it adjoins a municipal police department and offers little to categorize it as a Coast Guard unit with such a significant impact. Inside the compound, six response boats, a dozen government vehicles, and men and women bustling about in operational dress uniforms hint that an operational Coast Guard unit exists in rural Camden County, Georgia. However, an individual may be more inclined to see MSST Kings Bay members and assets driving through the back roads of Indiana, or on the waters of the Ohio River than at their unassuming base in St. Marys. To describe the MSSTs’ operating area, a globe would be an appropriate reference, as MSSTs spend a significant amount of time on the road, with operations spanning an area of responsibility not limited by traditional geographic boundaries.
For this last year alone, MSST Kings Bay accumulated over 100,000 miles on their vehicles to trailer boats up and down the highways in support of 25 operations and 14 different sector commanders. Their missions took them north to Bar Harbor, Maine, where they engaged in Ports Waterways and Coastal Security (PWCS) providing escorts for high capacity passenger vessels, and as far south as the Caribbean, employing a concept of operations where a Tactical Law Enforcement Team detachment is teamed with a MSST non-compliant vessel pursuit crew aboard a 179-foot Navy patrol craft conducting counter-drug and migrant interdiction boardings to support the commandant’s Western Hemisphere Strategy.
Most recently, two non-compliant vessel pursuit crews from MSST Kings Bay joined law enforcement detachments from both coasts and deployed aboard USS Zephyr and USS Shamal for an approximate 60-day counter-narcotics patrol. This unique collaboration of forces and capabilities resulted in the largest seizure for this operational concept to date, a record 900 kilograms of cocaine estimated at over $30 million in street value. After being designated a pursuit unit last year, MSST Kings Bay quickly qualified boat crews on this new assigned competency improving LANTAREA’s versatility to support this latter mission set.
On an international training front, MSST Kings Bay members deployed to Saudi Arabia to teach boat tactics to their aspiring border guard and to Belize to instruct their coast guard on boat handling and navigation skills.
In contrast to the quiet setting of St. Marys, MSST Kings Bay found themselves in Cleveland, the city that hosted the 2016 Republican National Convention. For this historic event, MSST Kings Bay led a deployable specialized adaptive force package consisting of 14 tactical boat crews, 12 response boats, engineering support, canine explosive detection teams, a remotely operated vehicle, and planning personnel to support all aspects of maritime security operations. MSST members accumulated 628 patrol hours escorting vessels and enforcing security zones to safeguard maritime critical infrastructure and 50,000 attendees and heads of state. Likewise, MSST members conducted positive control boardings, swept facilities and vehicles for explosives, and conducted search and rescue.
Whether enduring the snow of Lake Michigan for a naval vessel protection zone, deploying in under 24 hours in response to intelligence in our nation’s capital, providing foreign dignitary/heads of state protection in New York City during the United Nations General Assembly, or pursuing a go-fast in the open water of the Caribbean, MSSTs’ highly trained and professional personnel provide adaptable and scalable capabilities in support of missions worldwide.