DoD Beefs Up Persian Gulf Port Security
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2000 DoD is beefing up port security to protect U.S. ships and other forces in the Persian Gulf region, Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. Craig R. Quigley said during a Dec. 5 Pentagon press briefing.
Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen ordered additional units to deploy to the Middle East in response to a request by commanders in the area. The order comes in the aftermath of the Oct. 12 terrorist bombing of the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen.
Quigley said stateside Navy and Coast Guard port security units will deploy in coming weeks to strengthen port security in the region.
"If you have more people with additional equipment performing the same mission, you are, generally speaking, better served in that regard," he said.
He told reporters "there's a great desire to relax" security restrictions, "to have a more comfortable and relaxed standard of living for our sailors and Marines in that area." But, he emphasized, "the first priority has got to be force protection."
Bilateral negotiations are being held between the nations involved and the U.S. ambassadors to enhance safety and force protection for U.S. ships and other forces.
"We have to deal with the capabilities of any given nation, the physical layout of their port structure and what services they can provide that we could use," Quigley said. "You're going to find a different answer, I think, at each and every port."
The day the Cole was attacked in Aden, Yemen, commanders in the Middle East ordered all ships out of port. They haven't decided whether to start allowing ships in the region to restart port visits.
For security reasons, Quigley said he wouldn't discuss the number of personnel involved or their deployment dates and destinations. By noon Dec. 6, the Navy hadn't announced who it would deploy to the gulf.
Coast Guard spokesman Chief Petty Officer Adam Wine, however, said 27 men and women of Port Security Unit 309, Camp Perry, Port Clinton, Ohio, are preparing to deploy during the holiday season. He said the unit has 140 reserve and five active duty Coast Guardsmen. Most of the reservists are from Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois.
Wine said the unit deploys worldwide to provide maritime defense of U.S. and coalition assets, equipment and personnel within a critical harbor. This includes command and control, shore security, waterborne security and logistical support, he noted.
Meanwhile, the crippled destroyer is being transported to Pascagoula, Miss., aboard the Blue Marlin, a Norwegian dry dock vessel. The Cole is expected to arrive next week, depending on weather conditions at sea. Repairs are scheduled to begin in January and are expected to take about a year to complete.