“As Close As It Gets”

July 09, 2010

Dear Members and Friends,

At the U.S. Navy base in Manama, Bahrain there are members of the United States Coast Guard serving two of the most important U.S. Central Command and national security missions in the Persian Gulf.

One of these missions is the boarding and inspection of ships suspected of transporting illegal weapons and/or technology in violation of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) that involves 97 countries. The men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard are trained to board a hostile ship of any size; they also train our allies and members of the 97 PSI countries to use these tactics. This mission is extremely important in hindering the illegal proliferation of missile and nuclear technology to terrorist organizations and to nations such as Iran and Syria.

The other vital mission the U.S. Coast Guard performs in the Persian Gulf is the 24/7 protection of the Al-Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT). The ABOT lies in the Persian Gulf, 8 miles from the mouth of the Shatt Al-Arab River that separates Iraq from Iran, in Iranian contested waters. This small oil platform provides over 80 percent of Iraq’s crude oil exports and has been a source of controversy since the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980s. Due to the littoral waters and shallow depths, the Coast Guard has been deemed the protector of the ABOT and its sister terminal, the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT), for the past 7 years.

The mission requires three to four 110′ Island Class Patrol Boats manned with 16 Coast Guardsmen with one 25 mm chain gun, two 50 caliber mounted machine guns and various small arms. This mission, supplemented with U.S. Navy support, is a challenging one that brings the Coast Guard face to face and ship to ship with the Iranian Navy. The Iranians continually contest and harass these waters with ships and guns of their own; ships that are more like cigarette speed boats, faster and more nimble than what the U.S. Coast Guard uses. It takes unbelievable courage, poise and professionalism from the men and women of the Coast Guard to withstand the provocation by the Iranians; who know that the U.S. rules of engagement do not allow them to fire first. Their skills in this area exemplify their service as this is an inherent part of their training.

The same men and women are also training the Iraq Navy to patrol the oil platforms in preparation for the future U.S. withdrawal. This training has its challenges as the discipline and culture of Iraq’s naval forces are vastly different from the U.S.

These two U.S. Coast Guard missions play a vital role in keeping the region stable but go virtually unnoticed by the American public who are unaware of what these brave men and women do to make our world a safer place.

It was with distinguished honor that MDAA was able to visit the crews of the Coast Guard Patrol Boats and the men and women stationed in Bahrain who serve our country on one year deployments; far from their families with only two weeks off.

Semper Paratus

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