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Videoray - News - March 3, 2005

Coast Guard's anti-terror unit at the ready
Island-based team unveils homeland security capabilities
By Angela Hill, STAFF WRITER

COAST GUARD ISLAND — With a roomful of high-tech equipment, underwater robots, the latest in chemical protective gear and two frisky explosive-detecting dogs named Max and Hawk, the U.S. Coast Guard's Maritime Safety and Security Team showed off its now-complete homeland security capabilities Tuesday at an open house for local law enforcement agencies.

"These are the tools that evolved after the Sept. 11 attacks," said Commanding Officer
Mike Baroody, who greeted members of nearly every police department in the area, including Oakland, Alameda and the Alameda County Sheriff's Department.

"We're one of the new units established after 9/11, commissioned in 2003," Baroody said. "And it's been kind of a ramp-up process to develop our training and equipment. So now, after a year, we've reached the point of full operational capability. We're as ready as we can

The unit has been described as the marine version of a SWAT team, out patrolling San Francisco Bay, ready with high-tech radiation detection equipment, specially outfitted boats and high-powered rifles. "Our guys are trained to go on board and take control of a vessel," Baroody said.

One of the team's newest devices is a VideoRay, an 8-pound remotely operated vehicle. It's a mini-remote submarine with cameras that looks a little like
a small food-processor with pontoons. It's designed to search for explosives on the bottom of ships' hulls and around pier facilities and will augment the unit's seven-member dive team.

Also on display were handheld radiation detection units, protective suits, chemical gear and a detection device to home in on trace amounts of chemicals and narcotics.

The Coast Guard also has invested heavily in nonlethal technology, Baroody said, such as a
"net-entangling system" in which a large web of netting is shot out to the front of a suspicious speeding boat whose pilot has refused to stop. The net catches in the propellers and slows the boat down.

Above and beyond all the gadgets are the highly trained team members. The 100-person, six-boat unit is the eighth in the country established in response to 9/11. The Maritime Transportation Anti-terrorism Act of 2002 allocated more than $5
billion to Coast Guard programs, and the first Coast Guard security and safety team was commissioned in 2002 in Seattle, 10 months after the attacks.


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