On Friday July 15, 2016 a most fortunate group of Navy League members and guests were welcomed by commanding officer CDR Michael Schoonover to the headquarters of USCG-MFPU-BANGOR for a tour. MFPU stands for Maritime Force Protection Unit. The unit at Bangor is one of only two…the other being at the submarine base in Kings Bay, GA.
The USCG, now a component of the Department of Homeland Security, has statutory law enforcement authority, something not held by any of the DOD services. Law enforcement is actually one of the USCG’s 11 Missions and is applied at Bangor by providing protective escort to SSBNs leaving for or returning from deployment. Only SSBNs are so escorted.
The MFPU was officially established in 2007 as a result of concerns following the attack on USS Cole and the 9-11-2001 attacks. Because the US Navy does not have law enforcement authority a unique arrangement was made with the USCG in that, while the 150 personnel in the MFPU are members of the Coast Guard and their boats have Coast Guard paint and markings, all assets are actually owned by the Navy. And all costs, including for personnel, are paid for by the Navy.
There are four types of boat used in SSBN escort service. The largest is the 250′ blocking vessel. Then there is the 87′ reaction vessel, next a 64′ large screening vessel and finally the 33′ small screening vessel (which is made by SAFE Boats in Bremerton). Each type is used every time and is called a “package”.
At the conclusion of our informative briefing, which CDR Schoonover said would be brief…and it was…we all boarded a bus and relocated to the USCG dock on the waterfront. After being arranged into two groups and donning life vests we boarded two of the 64′ large screening vessels for a demonstration run on Hood Canal. The amazing maneuverability of the boat and its speed (over 30 MPH) were demonstrated. Also shown was the .50 cal. machine gun mount computerized aiming system Skill at video games can actually be transferred to the real world.
On a beautiful day and most gracious hosts the tour finally concluded as we needed to be through the floating security gates before 11:30 AM. We made it. Most of us then proceeded to one of the base galleys where we enjoyed a great lunch together.
Very sincere thanks to USCG-MFPU-BANGOR, CDR. Schoonover, his personnel, and Byron Faber, our super tour coordinator.