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These Coast Guard special operators fight terrorists and secure American ports

The elite U.S. Coast Guardsmen of the specialized forces deploy around the globe to fight terrorism and prevent attacks.


Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Melissa E. McKenzie

The Coast Guard anti-terrorism mission is most perfectly exemplified by two groups: the Maritime Safety and Security Teams and the Maritime Security Response Team. The MSRT and the MSSTs were part of the Coast Guard Deployable Operations Groups before the DOG was dissolved in 2013.

Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

The Maritime Security Response Team is the group that answers the 911 call and rapidly deploys when an impending terrorist attack is suspected or underway at an American port or waterway. They're also charged with conducting higher risk law enforcement missions.

During training exercises in 2014 and 2015, the MSRT was tasked with securing a moving ferry with 5,000 passengers, eliminating hostage takers onboard, and disabling a radiological device before it could be detonated. The MSRT has also been called on to provide an evacuation capability for the President of the United States and other dignitaries at the U.N. General Assembly.

Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Eggers

Like the MSRT, the Maritime Safety and Security Teams can rapidly deploy when necessary — they secured sensitive areas in Boston within hours of the Boston Marathon bombings — but they focus on longer missions, deploying to American and friendly ports that are at increased risk of attack and establishing a semi-permanent presence.

Twelve MSSTs provide security at ports from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to New York Harbor, from San Diego to Anchorage, Alaska and Honolulu.

"Special operations" technically covers only Department of Defense assets. The Coast Guard, operating under the Department of Homeland Security, classifies its elite operators as Deployable Specialized Forces.

See more photos of them below:

A Maritime Security Response Team member pulls security during a ferry boarding in an exercise Oct. 22, 2015.

Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

The MSRT members quickly gained control of the ferry and searched it for radiological threats.

Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

A military working dog with the MSRT was brought in to search the vessel while his human counterparts controlled it.

Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

A member of a Maritime Safety and Security team patrols New York waterways in Nov. 2003.

Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer Milke Lutz