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Gunboat scare a test for security
Charleston Post & Courier ^ | 7/16/02 | Tony Bartelme

Posted on 07/16/2002 11:18:38 AM PDT by PJeffQ

Gunboat scare a test for security
False alarm sparks action by local maritime interests
BY TONY BARTELME
Of The Post and Courier Staff

The report hit Coast Guard headquarters at about 2 p.m. Monday: four 40-foot gunboats heading fast toward Charleston.

Coast Guard officials, on high alert since Sept. 11, quickly phoned the Navy.

Were any of their vessels in the area? No.

The Coast Guard broadcasted a radio alert. Would the boats please respond?

No answer.

That's when things got serious.

Within minutes, the Coast Guard had a helicopter and a boat unit sweeping the harbor.

The Charleston County Sheriff's Office and the city of Charleston Police Department launched helicopters. The Charleston and North Charleston police departments and the Department of Natural Resources all launched their boats.

Turns out the four gunboats were real - but had nothing to do with al-Qaida. A Navy unit was in the area doing long-range navigation maneuvers, said Cmdr. Gary Merrick of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Office in Charleston. But nobody knew that until a Coast Guard official who happened to be at a marina on the Isle of Palms noticed the gunboats tied up there and went over and asked the crews around 3:40 p.m.

"It would have been nice to know that they were in the area, but looking back, it was a great opportunity," he said. The Coast Guard and local maritime interests recently formed a "volunteer port security force," a program to use professional mariners to identify unusual activities in area waterways.

"We're trying to reach out to the professional maritime community and make them the eyes and ears of the port, and the system worked phenomenally well," Merrick said. "They're supposed to report something that's not right, and you don't see (four gunboats) every day."

Bob Bennett, a consultant for the Charleston Branch Pilots Association, came up with the volunteer port security force.

"We're trying to create a kind of maritime terrorist watch," he said, adding that the program began July 1. Participants include harbor pilots, tug boat operators and other local mariners. Vessels in the program will fly a yellow flag with the words "Don't Tread on Me."

Bennett said the Navy boats weren't marked and apparently weren't flying their colors as they headed toward the harbor.

"That wasn't so swift," he said. "They could have been from anywhere."

He said an operator on one of the pilot boats, a Navy veteran, made the initial report. "The Coast Guard did some quick checks, and when the Navy said there were no known persons in the area, everyone went general quarters. The whole place freaked out. It wasn't a drill, but the system worked."

A spokesman for the gunboat unit in Virginia could not be reached. Officials from the Naval Weapons Station referred questions to the Coast Guard.

After Sept. 11, the Coast Guard and state and local law enforcement agencies participated in an intense training exercise to respond to terrorist attacks from the water. It's a pilot program that may be duplicated in other ports. "We had a real good response time," said Dana Valentine of the Charleston County Sheriff's Office.


TOPICS: Breaking News; Government; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; US: South Carolina; US: Virginia
KEYWORDS: charleston; gunboats; harbor; navy; portsecurity

This picture was on the main page at Charleston.net

1 posted on 07/16/2002 11:18:38 AM PDT by PJeffQ
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To: PJeffQ
"...a three hour tour."
2 posted on 07/16/2002 11:21:18 AM PDT by FreedomFarmer
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To: PJeffQ
An hour and 40 minutes is a good response? And the guy finds the boats tied up to the pier? Did I miss something here?
3 posted on 07/16/2002 11:21:40 AM PDT by ContemptofCourt
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To: ContemptofCourt
"An hour and 40 minutes is a good response? And the guy finds the boats tied up to the pier? Did I miss something here?"

Apparently I missed it too.

4 posted on 07/16/2002 11:24:14 AM PDT by phasma proeliator
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To: PJeffQ
Vessels in the program will fly a yellow flag with the words "Don't Tread on Me."

I love it.

5 posted on 07/16/2002 11:33:55 AM PDT by My2Cents
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To: PJeffQ
That is not a "gunboat." Sounds like the reporter/newspaper needs some Navy 101.
6 posted on 07/16/2002 11:38:55 AM PDT by pabianice
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To: pabianice
Which is surprising with Charleston being a Navy town for so long... the only thing close to this picture I could find were some craft on http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ship/craft.htm.

The Navy no-commented the story... and there was no caption for the picture on Charleston.net, I just assumed it was a picture of the supposed "gunboat".

The author's email address is bartelme@postandcourier.com if you want to ask him about it, they also have a military reporter on staff, Terry Joyce. Bartelme is the ports reporter.

7 posted on 07/16/2002 11:49:24 AM PDT by PJeffQ
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To: pabianice
Excuse the typo in the link, the pic is at www.charleston.net
8 posted on 07/16/2002 11:50:21 AM PDT by PJeffQ
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To: PJeffQ
THIS is a gunboat (coastal patrol boat USS Sirocco):


9 posted on 07/16/2002 12:03:08 PM PDT by pabianice
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To: Travis McGee; harpseal
Little Creek SBU 20 doing a little over the horizon ride has spooked the locals maybe ???.......LMBO !

Stay Safe !

10 posted on 07/16/2002 12:05:56 PM PDT by Squantos
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To: pabianice; Travis McGee; harpseal
Too big , too slow....... Now the Mark V is real nice for the job at hand......:o)

Stay Safe !

11 posted on 07/16/2002 12:09:45 PM PDT by Squantos
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To: Squantos
Isn't the Mark V named the Williams boat for BMFC James E. Williams (MOH recipient)?
12 posted on 07/16/2002 12:20:31 PM PDT by PJeffQ
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To: My2Cents
Sounds like a Gadsden flag, remember the one in the history books with the coiled rattlesnake?
13 posted on 07/16/2002 12:22:45 PM PDT by E.Allen
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To: Squantos
Maybe that was unofficial, I'd heard that class anecdotally referred to as the Williams boats, but they are named an Arleigh Burke class destroyer after him last year... (DDG 95)
14 posted on 07/16/2002 12:25:21 PM PDT by PJeffQ
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To: E.Allen
It is similar to the Gadsden flag which has some roots in SC I believe... the SC Libertarian Party uses that along with a Moultrie Flag (Crescent with the word liberty).
15 posted on 07/16/2002 12:26:11 PM PDT by PJeffQ
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To: E.Allen

16 posted on 07/16/2002 12:29:14 PM PDT by archy
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To: E.Allen

History of the Gadsden flag

17 posted on 07/16/2002 12:29:39 PM PDT by PJeffQ
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To: E.Allen
Yes, I was thinking the same thing. I think that would be a great emblem for this country to use again in the war on terror.
18 posted on 07/16/2002 12:34:30 PM PDT by My2Cents
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To: PJeffQ
It's pretty easy to do this sort of thing in Charleston and then go crazy when there is a "failure."

I'm in the Navy and I work here at the Nuke school in Charleston. There is the old main base, which shut down in the early 90's, and the Weapons Station, which houses the Nuke school and various other small commands. Save for the occasional supply ship (AO or AE), there are no ships here. The Coast Guard has a post near here, but I have no idea what they do.

Interesting factoid--shortly after 9/11, 20/20 wanted to do an expose on the "faulty security of the nation's military bases." They picked Charleston (an easy target, I admit) and tried to hire a boat to get them as close to the Weapon Station as possible. The locals they were trying to hire alerted the military, who sent people out to question them. Oddly enough, this "report" never aired.

19 posted on 07/16/2002 2:50:38 PM PDT by Skwidd
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To: 68-69TonkinGulfYatchClub
The Coast Guard and local maritime interests recently formed a "volunteer port security force," a program to use professional mariners to identify unusual activities in area waterways.

I saw this and thought about you. Is this the kind of work you are doing?

20 posted on 07/16/2002 5:40:21 PM PDT by SuziQ
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To: PJeffQ
Gimme a good ol 'Swift Boat' anytime (PCF - Patrol Craft Fast) Twin 50 cal. turret and a piggyback 50 cal -Browning/81mm morter astern. What they call firepower.
http://swiftboats.net/

Nam Vet

21 posted on 07/16/2002 5:50:01 PM PDT by Nam Vet
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To: SuziQ
"I saw this and thought about you. Is this the kind of work you are doing?"

What I do is stand a radio watch on the Coast Guard base.
I'm in the Coast Guard Auxiliary but am Coast Guard trained and qualified to handle
all radio and phone traffic to the base.
If a boater is in trouble on my watch, I'm the 1st voice they here.
When I am on watch a regular Coast Guard member is free to do other duties.
22 posted on 07/16/2002 6:16:20 PM PDT by 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub
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To: A Navy Vet; CIApilot; hedgetrimmer; BARGE; DontMessWithMyCountry; Junior
Coast Guard Auxiliary Members PING


23 posted on 07/16/2002 6:19:00 PM PDT by 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub
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To: All
We Need You -- In the wake of the recent attacks on the United States, the Coast Guard Auxiliary will be called upon to provide essential services to the Coast Guard as they focus more heavily on their military missions.  We will need all the help we can get.  You needn't own a boat or even be an experienced boater, since our missions are wide-ranging.  For information about existing Auxiliary missions and the Auxiliary in general, go to our Join the Auxiliary webpage.  You will find there a form through which you can ask that a local Auxiliarist make contact with you to explore the ways in which you can assist Team Coast Guard
and, in the process, do something for our country in its hour of need.
Age 17 and up (no upper age restrictions) Click Here for details.

24 posted on 07/16/2002 6:21:36 PM PDT by 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub
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To: PJeffQ
What if, as a result of the Navy denial of ships in the area (a la TWA 800), and the fact that they weren't flying a flag, the Coast Guard just blew those ships out of the water?

Isn't that what they should have done? If those ships were terrorists, perhaps we'd have another USS Cole type incident to talk about tonight.

25 posted on 07/16/2002 7:10:53 PM PDT by StopGlobalWhining
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To: 68-69TonkinGulfYatchClub
Bumping for the Coast Guard!
26 posted on 07/16/2002 7:40:31 PM PDT by hedgetrimmer
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To: 68-69TonkinGulfYatchClub
Could you post this for me Bud?..http://members.aol.com/swiftboata/3.jpg..Thanks in advance,

Nam Vet

27 posted on 07/16/2002 8:50:22 PM PDT by Nam Vet
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To: Nam Vet
"Could you post this for me"

Here you go Brother.


28 posted on 07/16/2002 9:02:43 PM PDT by 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub
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To: 68-69TonkinGulfYatchClub
Thanks. Yer a true Gent.
Not only a Gentleman and a Scholar, but a fine Judge of Beautiful Women and Good Whiskey! Heh Heh ;)

Nam Vet

29 posted on 07/16/2002 9:21:24 PM PDT by Nam Vet
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To: Squantos
The Mk V fits into a Galaxy with inches to spare. Nice boat, but after my time. (Drat.)
30 posted on 07/16/2002 9:51:53 PM PDT by Travis McGee
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To: Travis McGee
It is a helluva nice boat and given the apparent response time in the article I'm afraid they could have completed whatever they might have set out to do. And this was in broad daylight, with the boats not even trying to be discrete.

The Charleston County Sheriff's Office and the city of Charleston Police Department launched helicopters. The Charleston and North Charleston police departments and the Department of Natural Resources all launched their boats.

... and Barney Fife with his lone bullet in his pocket.

I can picture the DNR paddling to catch them right now.

We need to pay more attention to the ports. Some more sightings like this and maybe people will perk up.

You would have a blast in one of those boats.

31 posted on 07/16/2002 10:47:48 PM PDT by piasa
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To: piasa; harpseal
The 80' long Mk V boat is not designed to close with the enemy for gunbattles. It is designed to deliver SEALS from far over the horizon to a point some miles off of a coast, where the SEALs get into their raiding craft, usually "zodiacs", rubber boats with outboard motors.

In the terrorism context, the delivery boats are not meant to be seen at all, but just to drop their Islamikazi crew off "over the horizon". The terrorists then use GPS etc to home in on the nuclear power plant or other target in small nearly invisible (at night) rubber boats.

And terrorists will not use anything as splashy as a Mk V, they will use a fishing boat etc.

32 posted on 07/16/2002 11:04:27 PM PDT by Travis McGee
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To: Travis McGee
The boats they mentioned here were described as four 40-footers.

It is true that terrorists won't be using anything as nice and sinister looking as a MK V. Being stealthy isn't always neccessary, though. Sometimes obvious is better. Use the expected to do the unexpected.

Civilian ships- and ports- are accustomed to flotsam and jetsam type of craft around them, and so there isn't a need to be stealthy to approach. The terrorists can easily afford the kind of craft to get in close, IF people aren't more suspicious. Figure out the routine and mimic it, and you can go just about anywhere.

Or there's Port Access Plan B. Hire a stripper from the local terrorist watering hole and entertainment center, and have her drape herself across the deck of a small boat in a manner sure to interest a mariner. Fly a large US flag. Add some fishing rods. It would be like being given the key to the port... the locals might escort you in close but the last thing they would suspect is Islamic terrorism.

33 posted on 07/16/2002 11:45:56 PM PDT by piasa
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To: piasa; Travis McGee
Before 9/11 the local USCG Auxillary units used to help the New London Naval Base with security checks. The civilians were the agressors and in six exercises the Navay lost a nuke boat to the civilians. This was over a several year period. This was a submarine base. Now when it comes to tankers and chemical transport ships and bargessecurity is far lower.

Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown

34 posted on 07/17/2002 5:55:31 AM PDT by harpseal
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To: harpseal
Let's just hope the camel jockies don't go maritime.
35 posted on 07/17/2002 8:27:27 AM PDT by Travis McGee
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To: piasa
SC DNR Enforcement agents are all Deputy US Marshals...
(mainly because they enforce Federal wildlife laws as well as state ones)
36 posted on 07/17/2002 10:54:59 AM PDT by PJeffQ
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To: PJeffQ
Something is terribly wrong when the OOD or the CO of the Naval Weapons Station is unaware that four military vessels like that are in the area. Because of the Navy's inefficient behavior there could have been lost of life.

What is these boats had come up river and approached an area guarded by Marines with orders to shoot to kill?

What if one of the Coast Guard Units had fired on and blown up on to the boats.

How stupid!


37 posted on 07/17/2002 7:24:30 PM PDT by dixie sass
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To: Skwidd
Amazing isn't it. They forgot that we have guarded our bases and service personnel for so many decades that it is ingrained. They protect us and we protect them. It's worked well.

One thing that bothers me, is that on the way to the Wpnsta, there is one or two tank farms (fuel) I can't remember how close to the river they are, but North Charleston just wouldn't be the same if they went up. Goose Creek either with the lng place. Or the chemical factories up river and close by.

The above is all public knowledge.
38 posted on 07/17/2002 7:32:31 PM PDT by dixie sass
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To: dixie sass
The tank farms are pretty close to the river... the Hess one is near Westvaco near the 526 bridge... (the Army Depot was originally located across the street from Westvaco... one of the original buildings is still there... before it moved to the Wpns Station..)
39 posted on 07/18/2002 7:31:23 AM PDT by PJeffQ
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To: PJeffQ
Yes, correct. I remember when one of those tanks blew up when I was a little kid. We heard it all the way out to James Island.

Oh, by the way Jeff, are you coming to the meeting Saturday?
40 posted on 07/18/2002 12:07:38 PM PDT by dixie sass
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