MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO --
Twelve Coastguardsmen with the Maritime Safety and Security Team attached to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego put their water survival skills to the test during a training
evolution just off the coast near Naval Air Station North Island Jan. 17.
Among several tasks required for this training mission, the Coastguardsmen had to brave swimming in the ocean.
For Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Gross, the training mission required him to tread in the chilly water. It was the final task of the water survival requirements needed to obtain a certification as a boat crewman after swimming 100 yards and demonstrating knowledge with his safety gear.
“The water was cold enough to take my breath away when I first jumped in, but it wasn’t too bad because I had done this before,” said Gross, an Old Bridge, N.J., native who had been working toward his certification for six months.
“We do some form of training nearly every day,” said Petty Officer 1st Class K. C. Knoop, lead coxswain with the MSST. “During this phase, we are basically practicing how to save our own lives and someone else’s should something go wrong.”
The Coastguardsmen maneuvered around the San Diego harbor in two Homeland Security response boats practicing Victor Sierra search patterns, which are effective methods for finding people lost at sea. The technique requires them to cover a circular area where rescuers believe a victim may be.
They also did man-overboard drills in which a simulated crew member had to be rescued aer falling into the ocean. Once the Coastguardsmen located and rescued their crew member, they provided him with simulated, immediate medical attention.
The Coastguardsmen also transferred personnel from one boat to another, simulating the boarding of another ship. As one Homeland Security response boat sailed forward, the other crept alongside to enable a crew member to jump to the other vessel.
“Personnel transfers are effective methods for us to board non-compliant ships,” said Knoop. “We have used the technique, in several cases, to gain control of other ships carrying illegal drugs.”
The MSST is mostly called to support local law enforcement agencies in deterring smuggling and illegal immigration, but they train everyday to prepare for any situation.
“We have to always be on top of our game because there is always the possibility of an attack,” said Knoop, a Deming, N.M., native.
Knoop said the MSST is an anti-terrorism team whose responsibilities include defense readiness, search and rescue, illegal drug and immigrant suppression and natural disaster
relief. Because of their multiple missions, the lead coxswain said it is important for the MSST to always be prepared.