On May 31, 2013 twenty of us from the council were treated to a tour of the facilities of the US Coast Guard Maritime Force Protection Unit (MFPU) at Bangor. Although it was a cold and snowy day last year when Bremerton-Olympic Council formally adopted the MFPU, the weather was great for our tour.
Upon arrival we were afforded to unique privilege and opportunity to participate in an All Hands awards and recognition formation at which several MFPU personnel were recognized for significant accomplishments, promotions and upcoming transfers. Following that, MFPU CO CDR Tom Sullivan gave us an outstanding briefing about the history and operation of the MFPU and a description of the facilities and boats used by them. Good news is that over the next few years it is expected that a number of widely dispersed MFPU facilities aboard Naval Base Kitsap – Bangor will be consolidated into new or refurbish quarters on upper and lower base.
The MFPU-Bangor, which stood up in 2007, is one of only two such units. The other is in Kings Bay, GA. Their mission is to escort SSBNs while transiting to and from deployment through protection by presence and defense by force. Because the US Coast Guard, unlike the US Navy, has unique statutory law enforcement authorities the Navy actually contracts with and pays the Coast Guard for this service. In fact all MFPU assets are actually owned by the Navy. Additionally the MFPU provides personnel transfer and restocking service as well as strategic deterrence during local Dabob Bay exercises.
Following the briefing we moved to the waterfront to tour three of the vessel types used. One was USCGC SEA DEVIL #87368 (named after a former US Navy submarine), an 87’ Coastal Patrol Boat. Also seen were the 64’ Special Purpose Craft – Screening Vessel (SPC-SV) and the 33’ Special Purpose Craft –Law Enforcement (SPC-LE) boats. Of note, the SPC-LE boats were built by Safe Boat International out of Bremerton, WA. Another vessel type used by the MFPU are 250’ blocking vessels which are manned by merchant mariners, although Coast Guard personnel man the weapons aboard. They were tied up elsewhere so we did not get to visit them.
While aboard SEA DEVIL we all enjoyed lunch provided by the Coast Guard. The meal was prepared and served in the SEA DEVIL’s galley; an amazing feat considering that they were feeding their own crew as usual as well as 20 hungry visitors. It was very good!
The Coast Guard people in the MFPU who we met were competent, courteous and justifiably proud of their service in this special unit. They pulled out all the stops to provide us with a great experience.
Sincere thanks to CDR Sullivan and also to LT Denny Ernster who is leaving MFPU and heading to a new assignment as Commanding Officer of the Gulf Coast Fisheries Training Center in New Orleans, LA. And thanks, as always, to Byron Faber for getting this tour arranged. All members of the Navy League are encouraged to support the MFPU in any discussions with US Navy leadership.
Submitted by Norman Marten