This article originally ran in the RESERVIST Magazine, Issue 4, 2017.
Submitted By: Lt. Benjamin Gross, PSU 309
Port Security Units (PSU) are part of the Coast Guard’s Deployable Specialized Forces (DSF)
and have become the pinnacle of the national defense mission, which spawned the formation of the Coast Guard Reserve itself. PSUs are self-sustaining Reserve duty units for the first 90 days of deployment and are primarily staffed by reservists and a handful of full-time staff that support logistical and administrative functions for the entire PSU, similar to Reserve Force Readiness System (RFRS) staff at sectors or Senior Enlisted Reserve Advisors (SERAs) at stations.
PSUs need highly-motivated members in the boatswain’s mate (BM) and maritime enforcement specialist (ME) ratings to fill critical billets in Waterside and Shoreside Security Divisions, which are necessary to meet the Coast Guard’s readiness conditions for overseas deployments supporting maritime security operations. Tactical boat crew, tactical coxswain, and engineer billets are crucial in Waterside Security Divisions. These qualifications are an extension of traditional boat crewmember and coxswain qualifications with additional competencies and tasks essential for expeditionary missions. Crucial shoreside security billets include fire team member, fire team leader and squad leader billets. These qualifications are comprised of a mixture of traditional law enforcement competencies and tasks, in addition to basic infantry and anti-terrorism / force protection tactics and skills.
“The experiences of PSU members capture an expeditionary culture and pride,” said Capt. Matthew Wadleigh, commanding officer of PSU 309. “An assignment with a PSU guarantees hard work, great opportunities, fun and rewarding teamwork with significant leadership roles at all levels. PSUs receive great support, and interest comes from all areas of the Coast Guard, especially PACAREA, FORCECOM, DOL (Director of Operational Logistics) and SMTC (Special Missions Training Center), which ensures a PSU is resourced, trained and ready for mission requirements.”
If you are interested joining the PSU community, contact a Reserve Assignment Branch (RPM-2) assignment officer for your district or visit the RPM-2 website.
The Waterside Perspective:
Written By: Chief Petty Officer John Anderson, PSU 309 Waterside Security Division Chief
As a BM at a station, I experienced challenges when it came to completing and maintaining qualifications while in a drilling status. I decided to move to a PSU without knowing fully what to expect, but being stationed at the PSU was the best possible thing to ever happen to me. The main difference between a reservist at a sector or station and a reservist at a PSU is a PSU is an entire unit based around the Reserve members. Reservists come into the unit and run it over a drill weekend and during their ADT period. There’s no need to compete for underway time for currencies or qualifications. This helps BM3s succeed in getting certified as coxswains and advance in their career, as well as earning other qualifications at the same time.
Members get out of it what they put into it; there are many opportunities during a year to come in and run boats at the pace of the active component. If you like to travel, then you’ll get the chance to see the world. I deployed to Kuwait, Cuba, and South Korea, in support of joint-service operations.
In the Waterside Security Division, a BM is expected to work toward qualifying as a boat crew member, engineer, tactical crew, coxswain, and tactical coxswain, as well as qualify and maintain certification on the .50 cal M2HB machine gun, M240B machine gun, M-16 rifle, M-870 shotgun and the Sig 229 9mm pistol. Earning required qualifications usually takes 12-to-18 months, sometimes less depending on members existing qualifications.
PSU reservists can also work toward earning the PSU insignia pin by completing the PSU Basic Skills Course at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, which covers the many different facets of port security.
PSUs are a demanding type of unit with many chances to be recognized and rewarded with team, individual, and joint service awards. These greatly influence advancement with award points toward the service wide exam.
The camaraderie at a PSU exists not only throughout the crew and community, but also extends to a member’s family while at home or deployed. I have experienced some long days and challenges at the PSU, but all are well worth the satisfaction that I have received out of knowing that as Reserve BM, I am running a waterside mission that mirrors those of the active duty MSST, MSRT, and TACLET teams throughout the Coast Guard as well as the Maritime Expeditionary Security Forces within the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command structure. I fully believe that any BM who intends on making the Coast Guard Reserve a career should at some point in their career try a tour at a PSU.
The Shoreside Perspective:
Written By: Chief Petty Officer Matt Sheam, (former) PSU 309 Shoreside Security Division Chief
I was first introduced to the PSU in college by another student that lived a few rooms down from me. He would always come back from drill weekend and tell me about life at the PSU and how different it was when compared to other Coast Guard units. The stories I heard about the training and the missions that the PSU supported were so interesting to me that I enlisted. That was 14 years ago and during that time I’ve advanced from seaman apprentice to chief petty officer, all while serving at a PSU.
The duties of an ME in the Shoreside Security Division include: first line Unit Force Protection; High-Value Asset (HVA) protection from landside threats; and inspections of vehicles and personnel attempting to enter base entry control points.
If you enjoy traveling, the PSU is the place to be. As a member of the PSU, you are also a member of the Coast Guard Deployable Specialized Forces. PSUs deploy anywhere in the world for contingency, emergency and planned operations. Since joining the PSU, I’ve deployed to Kuwait, Cuba and South Korea.
Upon assignment to the PSU Shoreside Security Division, an ME is expected to become qualified as a fire team member and fire team leader. Additionally, you can work toward your PSU insignia pin, which can only be achieved by being assigned to a PSU. You will spend a lot of time working with various firearms (qualification and proficiency are a must on all weapons systems). Every Shoreside Security member will learn how to set up an entry control point, defensive fighting positions, conduct patrols and setup overwatch positions. You’ll learn these tasks while on the job, as well as through the PSU Basic Skills Course.
The commitment at the PSU is great, but it comes with rewards too. In addition to the team awards and medals I earned while stationed at the PSU, there are other advantages. As a reservist, my Post 9-11 GI Bill program was different than that of an active duty member, but I was able to increase my eligibility benefits through my deployments. Since then, I also maximized my GI Bill entitlement and transferred my eligibility to my daughter. This provides her with 36 months of tuition for college.
The PSU community is close, and it quickly became my family. The PSU has taken me all around the world, and I’ve gotten to be a part of the Coast Guard that few people experience.
Coast Guardsmen from Port Security Unit 305 aboard a 32-foot Transportable Port Security Boat patrol the waters off the coast of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Wednesday, July 19, 2017. PSUs are reserve-staffed units who train in preparation for deployments capable of conducting joint operations worldwide in support of the Department of Defense.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi
Coast Guard service members with Port Security Unit 305 scan the horizon from a battle position along the shore of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, July 19, 2017. PSUs conduct critical missions capable of protecting ports and waterways within the U.S. and supporting expeditionary operations overseas.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi