Coast Guard, multiple agencies provide maritime security for Presidential Inauguration

by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lindberg

Curled up on cots in a green canvas tent lay six men. Still wearing their dry suits, their faces are still flushed pink from the cold air as they close their eyes and try to get some rest while the bitter wind is rifling the walls of their makeshift home. Next to them sprawled out on black cases is an arsenal of light machine guns, shotguns and rifles. These men make up a part of the maritime security forces the Coast Guard has stationed at Camp Washington in its efforts to support the 56th Presidential Inauguration.

Thousands of miles away from the sunny shoreline of Miami and Galveston, Texas, the members of the Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Teams are being temporarily relocated to patrol the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.

The MSSTs along with the Maritime Security Response Team and six cutters have increased the Coast Guard’s forces in the area and are available to conduct security patrols during the presidential inauguration and the days leading up to it.

“The main mission is to inform the public and enforce the closure of the river,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Carl Habek, a coxswain with MSST Miami. The biggest challenge posed against the team is learning the new area. To help them quickly adapt to the new surroundings the team has been studying charts and maps.

“This is a new experience for a lot of the guys,” said Habek. A new experience but not a new mission.

Several hundred agents and officers are partnering with the Coast Guard from local, state and federal agencies to assist in securing events surrounding the inauguration of the President-elect. Members of these agencies along with Coast Guard members will be randomly and strategically placed to ensure maritime security along the banks of the Potomac River.

Supporting the Coast Guard and the United States Secret Service are agents from the Metropolitan Police Department, Harbor Patrol, Fairfax County Police Department, Maryland Natural Resource Police, Maryland Transportation Authority, Prince George County Police and members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Marine Interdiction.

All the agencies will be conducting joint patrols up and down the Potomac River to monitor and restrict recreational and commercial maritime traffic.

The multi-layered security forces have not only been battling the possible threat of terrorism, but also the freezing temperatures that have been lingering around the nation’s capital. “The weather is keeping a lot of recreational boaters off the water,” said Dave Pelfrey, Director of Marine Operations from the Great Lakes Air and Marine Branch located in Detroit, Mich. and a 12-year veteran of CBP.

“Our crews also have the challenge of working in icy conditions,” he said. Pelfrey has experience working with the Coast Guard in the northern Midwest as well as the Southeast.

The mission for the security during the inauguration is the same mission that all these agencies are no stranger to. It is no surprise that when our nation needs one of the busiest bodies of water on the eastern seaboard secure it calls upon the talents of its best maritime security professionals. With the capital city waterways under their lookout the country has every reason to feel safe.

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