|05-11-2006, 05:07 PM||#1 (permalink)|
AKA: Chief Muppet
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Great Britain
Coastal warfare squadron ready to launch at Little Creek
By LOUIS HANSEN, The Virginian-Pilot
© May 11, 2006
Last updated: 6:07 PM
VIRGINIA BEACH - Three small Navy patrol boats bounced over the wake of a destroyer Wednesday morning.
The trio of new boats hooked left, accelerated to 30 knots and cruised past the lumbering giant in the calm waters. Sailors on all the craft waved to one another .
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessie Billingsley and his crewmates get time on the water Wednesday as they train for the Navy’s coastal warfare squadron. Future squadron missions could include base security in Kuwait or domestic disaster relief. Stephen M. Katz PHOTOS/The Virginian-Pilot
These quick patrol boats soon will become best friends with the blue-water ships. Next week, the Navy will establish its first coastal warfare squadron on the East Coast.
Based at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base, the 300-sailor unit will be charged with protecting ships entering harbors and ports and guarding key installations from terrorist attacks.
The force also boasts a range of mobile security and communications systems. It can follow behind a hurricane or other natural disaster, deploy and set up within a few days and become a free-standing command and control center for military or civilian personnel.
The bombing of the Norfolk-based destroyer Cole in 2000 and the 2004 suicide attack against sailors in the Persian Gulf stand as vivid examples of the danger posed by small enemy craft.
Coastal patrols from other commands are operating in the Persian Gulf and have been running on high deployment schedules.
"The need was apparent," said Cmdr. James Campbell, commanding officer of Navy Coastal Warfare Squadron 4 .
The coastal warfare squadron draws together a variety of Navy responsibilities into a tight package and allows combat commanders to pick the units they need - for example, base protection or additional harbor patrol - to supplement combat troops.
The key is to deploy quickly to missions that could include base security in Kuwait or domestic disaster relief.
Campbell said the teeth of the new force are the small, fast boats.
The 34-foot, twin-engine cruisers can do 35 knots in calm seas. The craft are armed with three automatic rifles and a grenade launcher - enough firepower to drive away enemies or signal neutral crafts to pull over for inspection. The squadron will receive 18 new boats.
Campbell said the unit has been popular with sailors because of its small size and combat mission. Personnel and equipment are added weekly.
Lt. j.g. Adam Arbogast , 28, left the surface fleet about eight months ago to lead a small boat unit. It's been rewarding, he said.
"I came here for something different," he said. "It's an opportunity for everyone to get out of their comfort zone."
Petty Officer 3rd Class David Walsh, 24, a gunner's mate, aims to try out for the special warfare community next year.
First, though, he said, "I want to get combat experience."
On Wednesday afternoon at Fort Story, sailors ran through force protection and anti-terrorism drills at their base camp.
About a dozen sailors guarded the base against suicide bombers and domestic disputes brought to their gates. The unit played through several different scenarios throughout the day.
A group with Navy Coastal Warfare trains on patrol boats Wednesday morning in the Chesapeake Bay off Little Creek Amphibious Base.
Lt. Matthew Cook, training officer for the unit, said the drills are designed to mimic the high stress of the battlefield.
Repetition is key, Cook said, "all the time, all the time, all the time."
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