Always ready by always training

 

Participants of a multi-agency Maritime Tactical Operations Group training approached a vessel during a scenario where the crew boarded a small boat that needed to be taken control of during an exercise in Curtis Bay, Md., May 15, 2013. This MTOG training, which consisted of 35 members from 14 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies from the Chesapeake Bay area, focused on tactical team operations to learn and enhance skill sets particular to a maritime environment. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin

Participants of a multi-agency Maritime Tactical Operations Group training approached a vessel during a scenario where the crew boarded a small boat that needed to be taken control of during an exercise in Curtis Bay, Md., May 15, 2013. This MTOG training, which consisted of 35 members from 14 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies from the Chesapeake Bay area, focused on tactical team operations to learn and enhance skill sets particular to a maritime environment. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin

Post written by PA2 David R. Marin 

Intel has just come in about a vessel of interest that merits further investigation. Orders have been issued to take control of the boat and all personnel aboard.

Responding to the call, 35 members of the Maritime Tactical Operations Group suit up and dispatch aboard five small boats. The first small boat crew approaches the 65-foot Small Harbor Tug unsure of what they will find, how many people are aboard, where people could be located and, worst of all, the intent of the personnel aboard.

Participants of a multi-agency Maritime Tactical Operations Group training board the Coast Guard Cutter Chock during an exercise in Curtis Bay, Md., May 15, 2013. This MTOG training, which consisted of 35 members from 14 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies from the Chesapeake Bay area, focused on tactical team operations to learn and enhance skill sets particular to a maritime environment. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin

Participants of a multi-agency Maritime Tactical Operations Group training board the Coast Guard Cutter Chock during an exercise in Curtis Bay, Md., May 15, 2013. This MTOG training, which consisted of 35 members from 14 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies from the Chesapeake Bay area, focused on tactical team operations to learn and enhance skill sets particular to a maritime environment. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin

The MTOG is a consortium of state and local maritime units that collaborate in protecting and securing Maryland’s ports and waterways. On this, the morning of May 15, 2013, crewmembers of the MTOG get ready to board a potential threat. With guns drawn, the first crew approaches, pulls up alongside and some members carefully begin boarding the vessel.

The movements look smooth, calculated and well coordinated. This day is another opportunity for them to learn and to practice their techniques and collaborations, since this is just an exercise and part of a larger three-day training called the Basic Maritime Operators Course.

“The three days of training began with time spent in a pool and in a classroom on Monday,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis S. Deichl, a qualified boarding team member with Coast Guard Sector Baltimore. “We did a float test, a 200-meter swim in full gear and in the classroom we learned boarding techniques.”

“The first day of classroom training got everyone on the same page regarding the types of commands that would be given during a boarding,” explained Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas B. Ligon, a qualified boarding team member with Coast Guard Sector Baltimore. “The commands are similar to the ones we use in the Coast Guard already and probably similar to the ones used by the other participants.”

The command at Coast Guard Sector Baltimore sends boarding team members through this training every year. This time Deichl and Ligon were the only Coast Guard representatives to participate.

“Tuesday we trained [using] the different boarding techniques aboard a decommissioned Navy cutter,” said Deichl. “Many of the guys in the training haven’t done boardings before, so it was key to get them familiar with boat layouts and the different types of compartments on board.”

Throughout the three days there were approximately 35 members from 14 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies from the Chesapeake Bay area that participated in the training.

The third day brought an opportunity for the students to put their training to action. So with the help of the crew aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Chock, the trainees boarded the tug while the crew acted as stowaways or terrorists, and the instructors roamed about, evaluating the trainees.

Participants of a multi-agency Maritime Tactical Operations Group training approached a vessel during a scenario where the crew boarded a small boat that needed to be taken control of during an exercise in Curtis Bay, Md., May 15, 2013. This MTOG training, which consisted of 35 members from 14 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies from the Chesapeake Bay area, focused on tactical team operations to learn and enhance skill sets particular to a maritime environment. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin

Participants of a multi-agency Maritime Tactical Operations Group training approached a vessel during a scenario where the crew boarded a small boat that needed to be taken control of during an exercise in Curtis Bay, Md., May 15, 2013. This MTOG training, which consisted of 35 members from 14 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies from the Chesapeake Bay area, focused on tactical team operations to learn and enhance skill sets particular to a maritime environment. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin

“The training is similar to that which the Coast Guard does at the Maritime Law Enforcement Academy in Charleston, South Carolina, aboard some smaller vessels,” said Deichl, but with one exception. “It was the first time I had done any training like this where the boat we were boarding was underway and [we were] using a small boat, pulling up to the side and jumping aboard. At the academy in Charleston, you board boats that are in the yard on blocks.”

The major difference between the MLE Academy and MTOG training, Deichl explains, is that in the latter, students train to board and search a vessel that is underway, thus better approximating real-life circumstances.

“Other than the basic boarding team member qualification where we do tactical procedures for entering spaces and the typical boardings, this is quite more advanced than… normal training for us,” said Ligon. “What surprised me the most was the willingness [of] everyone to work together as one team and… forget their titles to get whatever task they had at hand done.”

During the third day’s training, the 35 members were broken up into five separate teams aboard different small boats and took turns boarding the Chock and other small boats.

“We did three scenarios,” said Ligon. “We boarded the Coast Guard Cutter Chock twice then performed one boarding of the County sheriff’s small boat. The scenarios were that there was a crew aboard a [suspicious] vessel that we needed to board and take control of while securing all suspects aboard.”

The Chesapeake Bay is rich with maritime assets from several agencies that often work together to keep the ports and waterways secure. Formed in 2005, the MTOG is a sub-committee of the Coast Guard Sector Baltimore-area Maritime Security Committee that prepares and responds to security emergencies within Maryland’s maritime environment.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Deichl and other participants of a multi-agency Maritime Tactical Operations Group training take control of a vessel during a scenario where the crew boarded a small boat that needed to be taken control of during an exercise in Curtis Bay, Md., May 15, 2013. This MTOG training, which consisted of 35 members from 14 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies from the Chesapeake Bay area, focused on tactical team operations to learn and enhance skill sets particular to a maritime environment. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Deichl and other participants of a multi-agency Maritime Tactical Operations Group training take control of a vessel during a scenario where the crew boarded a small boat that needed to be taken control of during an exercise in Curtis Bay, Md., May 15, 2013. This MTOG training, which consisted of 35 members from 14 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies from the Chesapeake Bay area, focused on tactical team operations to learn and enhance skill sets particular to a maritime environment. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin

“It’s not a requirement for any qualification for a certain type of boarding,” said Deichl. “It is a training meant to get personnel from each agency to be on the same page regarding the proper procedures including techniques and communication.”

“The sustainment of MTOG over the last seven years has served as a best practices approach for the coordination of law enforcement resources on Maryland’s waterways and serves as a national model for other maritime areas to follow,” said Col. George F. Johnson IV, Superintendent of the Maryland Natural Resources Police during an MTOG field day one week after the training. “One of Governor O’Malley’s goals was for Maryland to be a leader in Homeland Security. The MTOG has consistently worked to fill that goal for Maryland’s maritime community.”

“I thought the training was great, working with the maritime law enforcement and the land-based SWAT teams that are leaps and bounds ahead of us,” said Ligon. “They do this kind of stuff every day, whereas the Coast Guard is kind of like a Jack of all Trades. It is good to intermingle with them and see how they do their tactical procedures and [see] how we can better ours [to] build upon the base that the Coast Guard has taught us.”

“From here we will go back to our units and pass along the knowledge gained during the training,” said Deichl.

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