Guam-based unit secure in mission to protect ships
March 21, 2003
COMMANDER, U.S. NAVAL FORCES MARIANAS, Guam — Scenario: A U.S. Navy ship with valuable cargo has broken down somewhere in the Pacific. It needs to get to the closest port for emergency repairs.
Problem: The nearest port is deemed to have a significant threat against U.S. forces. Terrorist activity is highly likely.
Solution: Mobile Security Unit, Guam.
With an ability to sustain itself for 10 days, a headquarters element and three highly deployable detachments, the unit’s proponents say it is ready to secure any Navy asset at any time, anywhere in the Pacific.
The unit’s commanding officer, Navy Cmdr. Matthew Garside, has been on Guam since last month setting up the service’s third such outfit. Fellow units are in San Diego and Norfolk, Va.
“This unit will provide the Navy with force protection in high-threat areas for high-value assets,” he said, such as Navy and Military Sealift Command ships, submarines and aircraft.
About 230 enlisted sailors and 20 Navy officers will make up the unit when it’s fully staffed. Garside said all the unit’s security personnel should be on Guam sometime next year.
“This unit is designed to be deployed to places where there is a high terrorist threat or high threat to U.S. forces,” he said.
The unit’s first enlisted member checked aboard on Friday. Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Ambrosi arrived on Guam from San Diego, where he underwent six months of training for his new assignment. He said this tour of duty tempted him because “the job seemed cool.” He said the unit’s rigorous training and high operations tempo made him volunteer.
In fact, Garside said, “everyone is a volunteer for the mobile security unit.”
Its initial training centers around classroom instruction, then moves to practical small-unit exercises. These exercises include security procedures, weapons training and combat skills, Garside said. The bulk of the unit’s soon-to-be crew is in San Diego for the initial training, he said.
And when those sailors move to Guam, it will be for good reasons, he said: The island is a strategic location for such a unit.
“Andersen Air Force Base, at the north end of the island, can provide us with transportation to anywhere we need to go,” he said. “We’re closer to where we’re going to operate — where the threat is.”
The unit will be used for planned and unplanned missions, Garside said. If a Navy ship makes a planned port call in an area known to have a high threat against U.S. forces, his teams can fly out and set up force protection for that area. That could include security on the ship and on the ship’s pier.
The unplanned missions could involve anything from terrorist activity, such as 2000’s USS Cole bombing in Yemen, to securing ports for emergency port calls.
Commonly, one of the unit’s three detachments would deploy for each situation. Each deployment involves 76 sailors and everything to keep them going for 10 days.
It’s those 76 sailors — whom Garside called some of the fleet’s brightest — who made him raise his hand for the assignment.
“If I was a sailor looking to do something different and important [for] my country, with hands-on weapons training,” he said, “it’s Mobile Security Unit, Guam.”