New Years Rings in a New Coast Guard Rating

by Petty Officer 1st Class Allyson E.T. Conroy

With the ringing in of the New Year, the Coast Guard ushered in a brand new rating, while at the same time they said good-bye to another. The Maritime Enforcement Specialist job rating officially became part of the Coast Guard family January 1, 2010, while at the same time one of the only reserve ratings in the service, Port Security, was disestablished. The Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST) 91103 from Los Angeles/Long Beach, recognized that special mile mark while being deployed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

During the ceremony Dec. 29, 2009, each member symbolically transitioned from one side of the brow to the other. As they did so, each person shed his legacy rating and stepped into the boots of being a Maritime Enforcement Specialist.

“Not many people can say they changed ratings from their legacy to a brand new rating while being deployed to Guantanamo,” Chief Petty Officer Lee Conroy said. Conroy, previously a boatswain’s mate, is the senior enlisted member to be a plank owner of the Maritime Enforcement rating at the MSST. “Being here makes it that more special. It is important to recognize this new step in the Coast Guard.”

The service has been responsible for maritime law enforcement since its beginning days as the Revenue-Marine, and later named the Revenue Cutter Service, which was established in 1790. The idea behind creating a new law enforcement-centric job rating is to be able to continue that ability with a better set of tools for the fleet.

“This is a significant change, and not a decision that was reached lightly,” said Vice Adm. Jody Breckenridge, commander of the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area.

The admiral was able to visit the MSST and pay tribute to the unit during the holidays, as well as participate in the ceremony of those who switched ratingss at the beginning of the year.

“In the post 9/11 environment, and the joint environments we are operating in, we have looked at how threats have changed, and the skills we really need have changed.” Breckenridge said.

This new rating will help the Coast Guard not only acquire those skills, but also to maintain those specialized abilities in the field. These new maritime enforcement specialists will be the law enforcement instructors at the unit level, and will keep the rest of the fleet up to speed when it comes to enforcing the laws on the water, and in the many different aspects of the Coast Guard’s 11 missions.

In the recent past, it has primarily been the boatswain’s mates, the gunner’s mates and the machinery technicians who have constituted the Coast Guard’s boarding teams. This will not change, Conroy says. These teams will still be made up of a variety of other ratings to do the job. However, it will be the unit’s resident ME who will be responsible for training these team members and keeping them up to speed on their law enforcement skills. This, he says, will be a wonderful improvement because as the different ratings rotate in and out of the different missions, there will always be an ME at the unit to make sure the members know what they need to know to get the job done and to stay safe while doing it.

“With the establishment of this rating, there will be a core in the organization that will represent our new depth of experience,” Breckenridge said. “They will keep our deployable forces up and coming, with a bit stronger footprint, while at the same time keeping the rest of the Coast Guard’s skill sets up as they rotate through the different billets.”

Though this new job comes on line, the Coast Guard says farewell to another rating. The Port Security Specialist was the only job that was strictly for the reserves, a job that Chief Petty Officer Brian Putnam did for more than 13 years as a reservist.

“I am sad to see the PS rating go,” Putnam said.

Putnam is Conroy’s reserve counterpart, who also made the change to ME. He may be sad to see his legacy rating being disestablished, but he is excited to see the reservists have an opportunity the new rating will afford them.

“In the past, the reserve PS members did not have an active duty counterpart, therefore it made training difficult,” Putnam said. “You’d come in for your drill weekends and be working for a BM1 or another rating who really didn’t know what your job consisted of.”

Now, Putnam said, a consistency will be maintained between the active duty side and the reserve side, which will ensure his reserve members receive the proper training they need. When deployments come up, such as the one Conroy and Putnam are now on, there will be a better correlation within the one rating, making sure the mission is completed more efficiently.

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