NEWS | Jan. 25, 2012

HPU-the first line of defense

By Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Hudson Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Joint Base Charleston's 628th Security Forces Squadron Harbor Patrol Units received crew-serve weapons training during a timed stress test at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at JB Charleston - Weapons Station, Jan. 19.

The test serves as a simulation of a real-life scenario, training members on their proficiency should a water-borne attack occur. The Harbor Patrol units patrol the Cooper River as it borders JB Charleston - Weapons Station, providing security for more than 16 miles of waterfront which cuts through Goose Creek, North Charleston and Hanahan.

"Our harbor patrol units are our first line of defense if there was a water-borne attack," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Bradley Nguyen, a Gunner's Mate assigned to the 628th SFS as range safety officer. "Any attacks have to be averted as quickly as possible so it is crucial for members to be up to par in their training. In a real-life scenario there is little time to think or plan ahead, so this training helps create a simulated environment where service members will have very little time to react."

After the patrol crews arrive at the training grounds, Nguyen and Petty Officer 2nd Class Fredrick Favors, a Master-at-Arms and a 628th SFS fire arms instructor, provided them with a safety brief for the day's events. The crews then had to do calisthenics - jumping jacks and a short run in order to get their hearts racing. Afterwards, the crew members were told to take a seat before being given the key word 'threat' which started the test.

From a sitting position, crew members had to run to a table which held an ammunition box and their weapon, an M24OB machine gun. They were required to open the ammunition box that was lock-wired-shut and then load their weapon and fire a dummy round. Crew members are required to do this timed test within 30 seconds - anything longer could cost them their life in an actual real-life scenario.

"Within 30 seconds, a member should be able to effectively engage their target - effectively is the key word," said Favors. "This training is designed to help get members to that speed if they are not already there."

For Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Harkey, handling the weapon helped build his confidence. Harkey is a Master-at-Arms and member of the harbor patrol units with the 628th SFS.

"I think this training is very important to have because it gives you hands-on experience with the weapons," Harkey said. "This is the type of knowledge needed out in the field. This training makes me feel more capable to effectively use this weapon and to react to a real-life scenario correctly."

Twenty-three seconds may not seem like a lot of time for most people, let alone load a weapon and fire off a dummy round, but for Tech. Sgt. Ben Watrous, assigned to the 628th SFS, who completed his test in 23 seconds, repetition is key.

"Rehearsal and drill makes it easier to react," he explained. "This helps build up a person's muscle memory so that it becomes natural and makes them feel more at ease and comfortable with the weapon. The more familiar a person is with a weapon the easier it will be for them to react, load and effectively engage their target."

"Times are changing and threats are out there," said Nguyen. "We owe it to our harbor patrol units to give them as much training as possible to make sure they are proficient and effectively capable of using the weapons provided. There is no such thing as too much training. We need to be ready for whatever comes our way."