MSSTs and Irregular Naval Warfare

We have all probably read that five Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSST) are to be dissolved.  There is good background in a recent article in The Navy League’s magazine, “Sea Power”.

For those that would like a little more background on the potential threats, here are some links to historical employment of irregular naval warfare:

There were many more attacks in Vietnam. So called “sapper” attacks were fairly common.

GPS and development of technology for underwater work and recreation have made these capabilities much easier to achieve.

I’ve heard statements to the effect that others can do the mission better, but I don’t see anyone else stepping up to do the job, at least not in US ports other than Navy bases.

I have very mixed feelings about the underwater port security mission. It is really almost an impossible job to do with a high probability of success. There are too many potential targets, not unlike trying to protect subways or buses from suicide bombers. It’s a job the needs to be done, but it is most likely to be recognized only when there is a failure.

14 thoughts on “MSSTs and Irregular Naval Warfare

  1. While on the Blackhaw and in a port in Nam we would toss concussion grenades over the side on a regular basis to “discourage” any potential sappers.

    • Stan, The rule in port was irregular throwing. Each two-hour watch was given a whole case (24) of concussion grenades. There was no schedule. Throw all, some, or none. It was up the individual watch stander and that kept it random.

      I almost got hit by one thrown from the Navy’s Barracks Barge. I think he was smokin’ something. They relieved him when I threatened to shoot him.

      There was only one full out sapper attack on the Small Craft Repair Facility (SRAF) in Da Nang during my time. Six swimmers were spotted by the Navy’s IUW and these were chased into a cove only to find a company of Marines waiting for them to walk out. There were not allowed to get up much less walk. All, six of them, had satchel charges on them.

      Then again while I was in country, two of the Navy’s IUW boats blew themselves up with grenades. They were playing around with them I believe they lost four people.

      Actually, Sonar works better.

      • Bill, “regular” was the wrong word. I should have said it was common practice for us to do it. You are right, the purpose was to NOT do it at specific intervals.

        I used to make sure a couple of them landed relatively close to officer’s country. And I usually had the midwatch….

  2. Not only that, but it was hard on all the plumbing. We had a hot water line going through my berthing compartment burst about once a month because of the concussions. Not fun for the guys sleeping right underneath. 🙂

  3. Hmmm. I get the feeling that our over-active environmental “watchdogs” would have a real problem with the practices the previous commenters related!

    As far as the decommissioning of the MSST’s, having retired from one, I don’t see it as too big a deal, provided the personnel and boats are re-assigned to the appropriate units who were before, and remain responsible for the security and safety of ports. Having spent many years at a Station, before joining the MSST, the only real adjustment was having to “forget” SAR! We used the same tactics and tools, only had some newer whiz-bang equipment, and the expectation that we could be sent anywhere, anytime.
    I still feel that the MSST’s and MSRT were created at the expense of the small boat stations that will still be doing the mission after the MSST’s fade away.

    • The MSSTs may survive for some time to come. The Prohibition patrols went on for three years following its repeal and booze was legal again. No, need will not be the demise of the MSSTs. It will be money. The Prohibition patrols ended because of the huge budget cut backs in 1934. Something had to go.

      The same will be for the MSSTs. Close them at one port. Move the people and gear to another and then cut the numbers there and no one will be the wiser.

      CGHQ is good at the hat trick.

  4. The MSSTs may survive for some time to come. The Prohibition patrols went on for three years following its repeal and booze was legal again. No, need will not be the demise of the MSSTs. It will be money. The Prohibition patrols ended because of the huge budget cut backs in 1934. Something had to go. The same will be for the MSSTs. Close them at one port. Move the people and gear to another and then cut the numbers there and no one will be the wiser. CGHQ is good at the hat trick.

  5. I recall a pair of Mike 8s that were damaged by a swimmer placed charge. On another occasion a diver found a satchel charge hung from the center shaft of one LCUs rigged to detonate when the boat backed off the beach. The problem was the that prop shaft was broken and awaiting repairs when the charge was found.

  6. Pingback: Under Water Inspection Capability - CGBlog.org

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