Sunday, September 09, 2007

Perspective: A different duty for the guardians of the U.S. coast

Above: A 'visit, board, search and seizure' (VBSS) team member attached to the guided-missile destroyer USS Preble patrols with an M240 machine gun mounted on the front of the ship's rigid hull inflatable boat in Iraqi territorial waters in June.

From Iraq's offshore oil platforms to the coastlines of the Northern Arabian Sea and East Africa, the US Coast Guard has a quiet role in defending vital infrastructure and training local navies and police forces to better defend their sea boarders.

For the last several years, the involvement of Coast Guard cutters and sailors has focused on supporting the war effort in Iraq and carrying out maritime security operations (MSO) alongside coalition navies to deny terrorists and smugglers maritime access.

At home in the United States, by the service's own count, the Coast Guard saves 14 lives every day. On a daily basis in and around US waters, it averages 123 people assisted in distress, 22 illegal migrants interdicted at sea, responds to 12 oil or chemical spills, conducts 78 search-and-rescue cases, seizes 8.4 million dollars worth of illegal drugs, and administers 21 commercial vessel examinations.

But far from home, the most visible war effort for the Coast Guard has been the protection of the Iraqi Khawr al-Amaya Oil Terminal and al-Basrah Oil Terminal, where they have maintained a presence of five to six cutters to help enforce the security zones around the platforms.

Read the rest at the Digital Journal