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Port Security Unit (PSU)

Coast Guard Port Security Units are deployable units organized for sustained operations. They can deploy within 24 hours and establish operations within 96 hours. PSUs conduct OCONUS port security in support of requesting regional CINC's. They provide waterside protection to key assests (e.g. pier areas, high value vessels, harbor entrances) at the termination/origination point of the Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs). PSU's may operate in U.S. territorial waters under the direction of a Coast Guard or Maritime Defense Zone (MDZ) command or in foreign waters as part of the Harbor Defense Command (HDC or HDCU) within the Naval Coastal Warfare Command Structure.

PSUs often operate with other Naval Coast Warfare elements, such as a USN Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit (MIUWU) and Explosive Ordnance Detachment (EOD).

In addition to their most recent support of homeland security operations around the country, PSUs were deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm in 1990. They also served in Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy in 1994. In December 2000, PSU 309 from Port Clinton, OH was deployed to the Middle East to provide vital force protection for the Navy assets following the attack on the USS Cole.

PSUs evolved out of Coast Guard Ninth District's Reserve PSU program that began in the 1980s.

Each PSU has 6 fast and maneuverable Transportable Port Security Boats (TPSBs) - 25' Boston Whalers outfitted with two 175 horsepower outboard engines. The PSU has a large suite of weapons. Each unit is outfitted with spare material, pick-up trucks and vans, boat trailers, transportable kitchens, tents, and DoD-compatible radios. They maintain an inventory of equipment and spare parts to sustain operations for up to 30 days. Ongoing logistics support provides routine replenishment. All personnel have required individual gear for field operations.

Each PSU is staffed by 140 reservists and 5 active duty personnel. Personnel prepare for contingency operations during weekend drills and normally participate in either an exercise or specialized training during two weeks of annual Active Duty.

PSUs may operate independently or with other naval coastal warfare units, including:

  • COAST GUARD: High Endurance Cutters; Patrol Boats
  • MARINE CORPS: Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Teams
  • ARMY: Military Police
  • NAVY: Harbor Defense Commands; Mobile Inshore/Undersea Warfare Units; Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachments; Mobile Diving and Salvage Units; Inshore Boat Units

PSUs use six 25ft Boston Whalers (four operational, one in maintenance, one pre-staged theater spare),which are the third generation of the Transportable Security Boats (TPSB) used by the Coast Guard for the Port Security mission. These boats are well-equipped and armed with three mounted machine guns, in addition to the crew's personal weapons.

The mission of the TPSBs is to provide waterside protection to key High Value Assets (HVA) such as U.S. warships and military supply vessels in foreign ports and may include the port, harbor or pier itself. Through the use of vigilant escort and patrol techniques, the HVA is protected from asymmetrical threats such as assaults by small boats or swimmers.

Each TPSB is crewed by 3-4 enlisted personnel, usually Boatswain's Mates, Machinery Technicians, or Port Security Specialists.

Members of PSUs use a variety of light and crew-serve weapons. It is the Weapons Division's responsiblity to ensure that the Unit is fully armed and trained for any exercise, operation or incident that may arise. The Division consists of a Weapons Officer (WEPO), a Gunner's Mate First Class (GM1), and two Gunner's Mates Third Class (GM3s).

The Division maintains a variety of weapons which include the: Browning Machine Gun .50 Cal M2; M60 Machine Gun; M16A2 Automatic Rifle; 12 Gauge Riot Shotgun; M9 9mm Service Pistol; and M203 40 mm grenade launcher.

To most observers the Boats Division remains the most visible element of a PSU. But behind the scenes is the Security Division which is not only tasked to provide protection to vessels in security zones and pier areas but also to provide security for internal unit needs such as the command center, communications center, berthing areas, entry control points (ECP), vehicle control points (VPC) and traffic control/vehicle movement.

The Security Division mission is to provide security for the entire PSU as well as assisting the Joint Rear Area Commander's security forces in protecting joint command areas.

The PSU Security Division consists of 25 Port Security Specialists (PS's) led by the Unit Security Officer. It is subdivided into squads with 3 four-person fire teams each. Each squad and fire team has a designated squad or fire team leader.

Besides general expertise in the missions listed above, security personnel are also trained in defensive position construction, individual movement and patrolling, and assorted weaponry including the M16 rifle, M9 pistol, M203 grenade launcher, M870 shotgun, M60 machine gun and M2 .50 caliber machine gun.

Capable of worldwide deployment, in national defense regional contingency environments, with the exception of polar regions or areas with ice-covered water.

Operating environments are from shore sites or barges. PSUs will normally operate independently, but may operate with a USN Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit, if available.

Capable of conducting continuous boat operations with three boats underway simultaneously. A fourth boat will be manned and mechanically ready at all times as a ready response boat. The fifth and sixth boats may be undergoing maintenance or repair. Boat hulls can be expected on station (not including transit and maintenance time) 18 hours per day when more than one boat is undergoing maintenance. During high threat conditions, capable of conducting continuous operations with four boats for a maximum period of 24 hours.

Maximum expected boat crew underway period is 8 hours (with breaks when able) in any 24 hour period. Sufficient personnel have been assigned to provide a three section watch rotation for each of the teams (boat crews for three boats, unit security teams, C3 staff) that are required to be reamed continuously. This operating tempo can be maintained for 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

PSUS conduct layered defensive operations to protect high value assets within the protected waters of a port or harbor. The operation area may extend to the sea buoy if environmental conditions permit. PSU boats are fully mission capable when operating in less than 2 foot seas and 30 knot winds. If necessary, PSU boats may operate in up to 4 foot seas for less than 1 hour with a severely degraded mission capability.

As discussed in section 3.2.2 of reference (e), threats may be posed by aircraft, and surface vessels, including combatants, high speed attack craft, innocuous appearing civilian vessels, swimmer delivery vehicles, divers and mines. PSUs will normally operate in a low threat environment (Level I) as defined in DOD Joint Pub 3-10, Doctrine for Joint Rear Area Operations. They can continue operations if area of responsibility escalates to a medium (Level II) or high threat (Level III) environment if additional security support is provided by the supported commander. If no additional security support is provided, PSU mission capabilities will degrade due to increased requirements for unit self-protection. PSU boat crew fatigue may limit operations in a medium to high threat environment if that opera~ions tempo continues beyond 24 hours.

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Page last modified: 12-08-2011 00:04:57 ZULU