CLEARWATER, Fla. — The U.S. Coast Guard was established in 1790 with ten vessels called cutters to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. That role has changed over the last 232 years.
Some like to refer to the Coast Guard as the "Swiss Army Knife" of the national security strategy because of the many roles they play in keeping our country safe. Clearwater is home to the largest Coast Guard air station in the country. Not only that, but the largest Port Security Unit is at the base as well.
"I think the term Coast Guard is a little deceptive at times. It depends on the coast and what you want us to guard."
Lt. Commander Donnie Brzuksa doesn't hide his pride in talking about the Coast Guard and his most recent post here with Port Security Unit 307.
"We have troops deployed all over the world with operations on all 7 continents at any given time. The sun never sets on the Coast Guard."
He explains what the Port Security Unit does.
"We set up security zones around high-value assets overseas and we protect those assets from any threats. Whether it's swimmers, terrorists, whatever it might be we have the capability to respond to that."
We got to ride along on a recent training mission to see for ourselves how this unique unit works.
"Today we were doing some training on our maneuvers and tactics and simulating what would happen if somebody had tried to enter a security zone while we were deployed."
Brzuska says the port security boats is they can pack them up onto military cargo planes, take them anywhere in the world and they can be ready to go within 24 hours.
"And then we're self-sustaining between 15 and 30 days without re-supply. So that means we can go somewhere, set up operations, conduct command and control, security both at shore and at sea and we don't need re-supply after that."
They do all of this while wearing 50-75 pounds of gear!
Also something special about this particular unit, the majority of the people serving are reservists.
"A lot of the people that serve here are already public servants. Whether they're law enforcement officers, firefighters, doctors, lawyers and so we really have a deep connection with the community because of that reservist tie."
The Port Security Unit of the Coast Guard responded to things including the USS Cole bombing in 1999 and was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and several humanitarian responses as well. They were there after the Haitian earthquake in 2010, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and most recently Hurricane Ida last year.