Race to deploy

Coast Guard Port Security Unit 311 and U.S. Air Force Reserve Command personnel unload a port security boat from a U.S. Air Force Reserve Command C-17 at San Clemente Island during Exercise Patriot Hook. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Anderson.

Coast Guard Port Security Unit 311 and U.S. Air Force Reserve Command personnel unload a port security boat from a U.S. Air Force Reserve Command C-17 at San Clemente Island during Exercise Patriot Hook. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Anderson.

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Anderson, Deployable Operations Group.

When the call went out for port security unit reservists to activate for Exercise Patriot Hook, a 96-hour clock to deployment was started.

Patriot Hook is an annual exercise simulating a joint response to natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina or the Haiti earthquake. Involving port security units 311, 312 and 313, the exercise was essential for the units which are designed for rapid deployment and sustained operations in support of regional combatant commands.

Coast Guard members assemble a shelter system at San Clemente Island during exercise Patriot Hook. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Anderson.

Coast Guard members assemble a shelter system at San Clemente Island during exercise Patriot Hook. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Anderson.

The units leveraged this training opportunity to not only practice cargo and loading procedures, “but also to train and test our ready-to-deploy within 96 hours of notification,” said Cmdr. John Caraballo, commanding officer of Port Security Units 311.

The exercise started with the port security units mustering with 35 pieces of equipment totaling more than 300,000 pounds, including port security boats, weapons, radios, food, water, generators, tents and everything the unit would need to conduct sustained operations.

Joined by FEMA Urban Search and Rescue, Navy, Air Force and other federal agencies, everything was packed and placed on pallets for deployment. Learning how to move and store this large amount of equipment is crucial in the aftermath of a disaster.

“Our loadmasters not only prioritized the equipment being loaded onto the aircraft they also worked closely with the Air Force personnel to develop load plans,” said Chief Petty Officer Joel Burkhardt.

Once on the ground at San Clemente Island, the southernmost of the Channel Islands of California, the units deployed a communications network and began constructing shelter systems and an entry control point to regulate traffic. After establishing their base camp – including a tactical operations center, portable armory and life support area to conduct first aid for the disaster victims – the units were ready to conduct sustained operations.

Once deployed, port security units support the combatant commanders by providing protection to key assets such as pier areas, high value vessels and harbor entrances.

A Port Security Unit 311 member helps assemble a shelter system at San Clemente Island during exercise Patriot Hook. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Anderson.

A Port Security Unit 311 member helps assemble a shelter system at San Clemente Island during exercise Patriot Hook. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Anderson.

After 24 hours on the ground, the port security units demonstrated their flexibility and ability to redeploy. Facing 40-knot winds and heavy rains, the crews reloaded equipment and redeployed less than two hours of beginning the break down. This quick shift in building up and breaking down is important in preparing for disaster response as impacted areas may change.

“During Patriot Hook, we showed we are not only ready to rapidly deploy when called, but we are also able to quickly shift camp to provide assistance to a more impacted area,” said Burkhardt.

The crews continued to face unfavorable weater, but it only added to their training and ability to prepare for disasters.

“Patriot Hook was a success for the PSUs. We demonstrated we’re able to respond within the 96-hour PSU requirement,” said Caraballo. “We also trained new personnel, refreshed experienced members knowledge and identified where we need to improve for the future because we could be asked to conduct a humanitarian mission at a moment’s notice.”

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  1. Jwelchjunk says:

    This exercise validated the total flexibility, professionalism, and excellent leadership within the PSU community. Bravo Zulu for a Job Well Done!
                                                       — RDML J. S. Welch, USCGR