SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — In months to come, drivers here may have their identification cards checked at the gates by a state police captain or a homicide investigator.

The 29-member Naval Security Force Sasebo, a Navy Reserve unit in Albuquerque, N.M., has been training for more than a year to assist Sasebo Naval Base when needed with law enforcement and force protection.

Cmdr. Vincent A. Pagano, commander of NSF Sasebo, visited the southern Japan base Tuesday and Wednesday in advance of reservists arriving next month.

“We’re a relatively new unit, and I wanted to meet the forces here,” Pagano said Wednesday. Five or six members of his unit are scheduled to arrive in late February, he said.

These aren’t greenhorn sailors without expertise in law enforcement and security.

In his civilian career, Pagano, 39, is a member of the California Highway Patrol. The reserve unit also includes Petty Officer 1st Class Jerry Cottrell, a regional captain with the New Mexico state police, and Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos Argueta, head of homicide investigations for Albuquerque police.

“Almost all of them are involved in professional law enforcement in some capacity,” Pagano said. “We also have a fire chief and an emergency medical technician. These guys are experienced professionals in their civilian jobs and as reservists.”

The reserve unit assembles for duty one weekend each month in Albuquerque. Each member also serves at least two weeks a year on a Navy base.

“All of our guys will spend at least two weeks in Sasebo this year,” Pagano said.

NSF Sasebo is permanently assigned to support Sasebo Naval Base when reservists are needed to assist with security, Pagano said.

“One benefit to the base is that they usually must send masters- at-arms from Sasebo elsewhere for various types of training and schools,” Pagano said. “But when our personnel come here, some of them can offer training, saving this base money spent on sending people to schools.”

He said all the members of his unit are qualified masters-at- arms and many have prior service experience in the Navy or another branch of the military.

In an emergency situation or if threat conditions warrant, the entire NSF Sasebo unit could be called to active duty at Sasebo Naval Base.

“That’s mainly what the NSF and base association is all about,” Pagano said. “We’re 100 percent operational and ready. They want to be useful and feel part of the Navy by coming here to serve.

“I tell them you can’t feel a part of the Navy more than by serving as part of the forward-deployed forces.”

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