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Naval Harbor Security Leads The Way
by U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communication Nathan Carpenter
February 17, 2022

Haze grey steel rises from the water along the piers of Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, towering above the surface, bristling with weapons, imposing bulkheads, electronic warfare modules and specialized high tech equipment everywhere. The mighty warships homeported at Rota are masters of the seas, projecting the strength of their many capabilities wherever they sail, but here in the harbor, they are in many ways at their most vulnerable.

Only a fraction of the crew remains on duty throughout the day and many systems are offline for maintenance. Visiting ships also let down their guard as they refuel, resupply and rearm, their crews departing to enjoy well deserved liberty, and repairs and upgrades are implemented.

It is these ships, along with port operations boats and equipment, and the Sailors who operate it all that the NAVSTA Rota harbor security team works tirelessly to protect. From “Metal Shark” security boats, they constantly patrol the harbor, ever vigilant against potential threats and ready to respond with lethal force if necessary.

“The mission of Harbor Security is to detect, deter and defend against waterborne threats through the use of Harbor Security Boats,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Jordan Branch, the harbor security leading petty officer. “We provide security for the homeported ships onboard NAVSTA Rota and all transiting U.S. and NATO vessels, as well as security escorts for Class A and B High Valued Assets entering and exiting our area of responsibility.”

January 27, 2022 - Master-at-Arms 1st Class Jordan Branch evaluates Master-at-Arms Seaman Alexus Vega and Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Paul Parks aboard a harbor security boat during a security drill at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota. NAVSTA Rota sustains the fleet, enables the fighter and supports the family by conducting air operations, port operations, ensuring security and safety, assuring quality of life and providing the core services of power, water, fuel and information technology. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Nathan Carpenter.)
January 27, 2022 - Master-at-Arms 1st Class Jordan Branch evaluates Master-at-Arms Seaman Alexus Vega and Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Paul Parks aboard a harbor security boat during a security drill at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota. NAVSTA Rota sustains the fleet, enables the fighter and supports the family by conducting air operations, port operations, ensuring security and safety, assuring quality of life and providing the core services of power, water, fuel and information technology. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Nathan Carpenter.)

The job isn’t an easy one – long hours of being constantly alert, perpetual training to recognize and to respond appropriately to potential threats, and maintaining qualifications to operate the boats and weapons take their toll, but to Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Gabriella Rodriguez a level II coxswain with NAVSTA Rota harbor security, the effort is worth it.

“There are always going to be challenges no matter what you do or where you go in life,” said Rodriguez, “The shifts are long, the qualifications take a lot of time and devotion to obtain, and sometimes that time and devotion can go into our off days, which is exhausting. However, I think that time and devotion makes our Harbor Security team the best.”

While there are minor incidents almost every day, like floating objects that need to be investigated or fishermen lingering at the mouth of the harbor looking for a catch, the team regularly trains to react to aggressive actions or attacks.

“The main objective is to train the Sailors on how to respond to certain events in accordance with their pre-planned responses and standard operating procedures, and for them to showcase all the knowledge gained in their training,” said Branch. “It puts them in a life-like scenario and we get to see the hard work and hours spent training pay off.”

These training opportunities also give the team a chance to bond and improve their teamwork and esprit de corps.

January 27, 2022 - Sailors aboard a harbor security boat engage a simulated hostile small boat during a security drill at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota. NAVSTA Rota sustains the fleet, enables the fighter and supports the family by conducting air operations, port operations, ensuring security and safety, assuring quality of life and providing the core services of power, water, fuel and information technology. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Nathan Carpenter.)
January 27, 2022 - Sailors aboard a harbor security boat engage a simulated hostile small boat during a security drill at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota. NAVSTA Rota sustains the fleet, enables the fighter and supports the family by conducting air operations, port operations, ensuring security and safety, assuring quality of life and providing the core services of power, water, fuel and information technology. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Nathan Carpenter.)

“Those are the days that everyone is together learning and growing in Harbor,” said Rodriguez, “Which sometimes are the best days because our team is filled with amazing people and leaders.”

In spite of the hard work, the job is often fun as well, and Rodriguez encourages those who have the opportunity to be a part of harbor security to take it.

“My favorite part about working in harbor security is definitely driving the Metal Shark Security Boats, especially in summer when the dolphins show up,” said Rodriguez. “The best advice I could give is make sure you can swim. You cannot make it in Harbor if you cannot swim.”

Even those who can’t swim well have vital roles to play. In addition to the harbor security team itself, many other people are working behind the scenes to make the mission a success through maintenance, planning and communication.

“There are so many moving parts that go into making us mission capable: dispatch, port operations, the LCS contractors, just to name a few,” said Branch. “Without the help of these entities, we would not be able to carry on with the mission.”

NAVSTA Rota sustains the fleet, enables the fighter, and supports the family by conducting air operations, port operations, ensuring security and safety, assuring quality of life and providing the core services of power, water, fuel and information technology.

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