Port Security Unit 311 – Preparations To Deploy to Kuwait

KUWAIT NAVAL BASE, Kuwait – As the 747 touched down at three in the morning, an eerie silence fell over the 340 Coast Guard and Navy personnel inside. Where moments before an excited chatter had filled the cabin, now it was quiet.

Presumably, it could have been the almost 19 hours of flying that the unit had to endure, and the journey had finally come to an end, but more that likely it was because of location…Kuwait.

Port Security Unit 311, based out of San Pedro, Calif. deployed to the Kuwaiti Naval Base Dec. 4 as part of the Navy’s Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron One (MSRON ONE) under the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But before the unit even got on the plane, they had gone through months of preparation and training.

“We mobilized about 75 days in advance of the deployment,” said Lt Cdr. Ken Stefanisin, Commanding Officer of PSU 311. “Medical, dental, personal screening – a lot of paperwork has to be done to validate that all the people are ready to come over here.” Stefanisin added that the screening includes making sure that they have all the proper medical care and their families are taken care of.”

On top of all the personnel issues, they also had to make sure that everyone had all the training the needed to perform for a seven-month deployment.

“We started looking at all of the essential training requirements that needed to be conducted to meet this mission,” continued Stefanisin. “Because we’re operating within a combined Navy/Coast Guard integrated command, there was a new aspect (to the training) we had to consider.”

“Coast Guard personnel are learning to operate Navy Boats, the Navy people will be operating Coast Guard boats, so there’s a lot of cross-deck training that had to go on in the boat operations,” Stefanisin added.

”The Coast Guard gave us the opportunity to work (in advance) with the MSRON that we were deploying with,” said Lieutenant Craig Jenkins, PSU 311’s Boat Division Officer. “During that time we ran integrated ops, including vessel escorts, security ops, and we had the opportunity to qualify Coast Guard personnel on the Navy 34 (foot) platform.”

Another consideration that they had to take into account was the integration of command staffs into one combined staff operation – jointly working with the Navy personnel to efficiently run the security operations.

“That takes a lot of negotiation in figuring out where people’s skill sets are and how best we can employ them in the right positions,” Stefanisin said.

Part of the training puzzle was also land security operations. Because the security operations on the ground in Kuwait are handled by the Army, special training had to be taken into consideration.

“Landward security is responsible for protecting the rest of the port security unit while we deploy overseas,” said Ensign David Bavencoff. the Assistant Landward Security Officer for PSU 311 “We also provide pier-side security for high value assets that come into port.”

“Because they’re working with the Army, (and) the Army has different requirements, and uses some different weapons systems, we sent them (the land security unit) to the national training center at Fort Irwin, California for three weeks of preparation training,” said Stefanisin, That gives the PSU additional operational flexibility when working with the Army security forces.

“Any time the Army needs them to augment their security forces, our people are trained up and ready to go at any time, to step into those positions.”

While it took months of preparation and training, two days of travel halfway around the world, and a lot of coordination, the men and women of Port Security Unit 311 and MSRON ONE are here in Kuwait, trained and ready to protect American interests – both on the water and on the land.

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