A day with Station Annapolis; Securing McCain’s rest

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Story and photos by PA1 Andrew Kendrick.

This weekend I had the opportunity to ride along with Station Annapolis and support a security zone as the late Senator John McCain was laid to rest. I’ve been in the Coast Guard for almost 19 years and I always enjoy opportunities to get underway, go for a flight, honor those who have served, or just do something extraordinary.

Coast Guard Station Annapolis crewmembers wash down one of the station’s response boats.

I arrived at the station in time to join the crew getting outfitted with body armor, helmets and, for those who would be armed, weapons for direct intervention and warning. The rule, established by the captain of the port for the Maryland-National Capital Region under 33 CFR Part 165, “prohibits vessels and persons from entering the security zone and requires vessels and persons in the security zone to depart the security zone.” Basically, that means we will kick you out and prevent anyone from coming inside the restricted area.

We all gathered in the training room for a mission brief, enforcing a security zone on the Severn River near McCain’s final resting place at the historic U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery. We went down to the boat, mounted the M240 machine gun, started the engines and cast off lines.

Getting ready to mount the M240.

We received a call on the radio a few minutes after getting underway; a boat was taking on water and they needed help. The siren began to wail, the blue light flashed and the coxswain brought the boat up on plane as we raced to the scene. These are the moments that remind me why I joined the Coast Guard.

We were there in minutes, but so were our partner agencies. The Coast Guard Cutter Chock’s small boat was one of the first on scene, along with the Maryland Natural Resources Police and then a commercial towing and salvage boat. We arrived along with a fire boat that was also responding. This mariner was fortunate for the quick and plentiful response as their lives and boat were saved.

Chock’s small boat crew speaks with the owner of the partially submerged boat.

We made our way directly across the river, through the congested Labor Day weekend boating traffic. The incident happened very close to the security zone.

Chock’s small boat heads back to the other side of the river, where the security zone is in place.

The Chock, an ice-breaking harbor tug commissioned in 1961, was at anchor on the boundary line of the invisible security zone, helping visually distinguish where boaters, kayakers, sailors and those on personal watercraft, were allowed to be. Their small boat was in the water to help enforce the security zone, which is why they were so quick to respond to the boat taking on water nearby. Talking about multi-mission capability, the Chock is an extreme example. The seven-person crew breaks ice up to 18-inches thick during the winter, participates in search and rescue, enforces safety and security zones for prominent events, conducts humanitarian missions and they conducted the second highest number of boardings, for a cutter, in the entire district last year.

The Coast Guard Cutter Chock sits anchored, delineating the security zone.

The Maryland Natural Resources Police also helped enforce the security zone. They are probably our most frequent partner in search and rescue and law enforcement in the area.

The MNRP officers discuss security zone tactics with BM2 Matthew Long.

We patrolled the small area for a couple hours, consistently approaching and informing those unaware of the zone. Some apparently overlooked the clear line of dozens of zone-abiding mariners that left a gap where policing boats patrolled with flashing lights.

As we approached each intruder, the M240 gunner on the bow of our orange wrapped, law-enforcement boat called out to the captain and gave direction to exit the area and remain on the other side of the black-hulled Coast Guard Cutter Chock. Usually they got the idea, prior to being within earshot, and needed little incentive as we hastily approached.

Seaman Colt Coffman directs people to stay outside of the security zone.

The time eventually came for the ceremony near the water to begin. The horse-drawn caisson with casket, followed by mourning family and friends, journeyed between saluting midshipmen who lined the side of the road leading to the cemetery. As the group arrived at McCain’s final resting place, four U.S. Navy F/A-18 jets flew in the missing man formation in his honor. The private ceremony couldn’t be overheard, but other symbols of honor for the prisoner of war who had given decades in public service were easily observed. Cannon blast concussions rang into the sky followed by a 19-gun salute.

Three U.S. Navy F/A-18 jets fly straight overhead as a fourth one climbs, a “missing man” formation.

The waterside spectators evaporated from the area pretty quickly as the ceremony drew to a close and we were on our way back to the station. We stopped in Annapolis for some fuel, cruised back to our dock and ensured the boat was ready to launch. The waterways were packed with every type of mariner. The crew expected we might be back out soon, but the call didn’t come for us.

Throughout the day, other Coast Guard boats and helicopters were busy nearby. They searched for a missing man near Betterton, enforced a security zone on the Potomac River, medevaced a possible heart attack victim 50 miles off Ocean City, medevaced a diver with a spear injury 35 miles off Ocean City and searched for a missing man in Lloyd Creek. This job is anything but ordinary and that’s why I still love it.


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