Friday, February 08, 2008

Pearl Harbor Security Maintains 'Right of Passage'

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael A. Lantron, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- The Sailors assigned to Harbor Security at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Pearl Harbor, remain committed to vigilantly protecting the harbor waters, her ships and their crews from sea and land-based threats at all times.

The Sailors' duties serve a vital role in maintaining physical security at Pearl Harbor and allow daily operations to be carried out in a safe and secure manner.

"Harbor Security is essential to day-to-day operations taking place in Pearl Harbor," said Cmdr. Larry Hill, executive officer, NAVSTA Pearl Harbor. "It's an important job to protect our national assets, warships and submarines that protect and defend this country that are stationed here."

According to Hill, a viable security force ensures the harbor is safe for all homeported and visiting submarines and ships.

"We ensure the safety of all surface and subsurface ships homeported here and the ships who travel through," said Chief Boatswain's Mate (SW) Dale Kintz, Harbor Security leading chief petty officer. "It's our responsible to make sure the ships enter and exit safely through the main channel."

Selflessly operating in three separate eight-hour shifts of two to three-man teams, the group of 33 Sailors patrol the harbor protecting its assets.

"It might be long hours, but I think we have the coolest rate out there," said Master-at-Arms 3rd Class (SW) Dori Garcia. "Just to be part of something like patrolling the harbor is exciting."

Utilizing six SeaArk Dauntless security boats, the Sailors are responsible for the protection of more than three miles of water along the harbor, stretching from the Pacific Fleet boathouse to Buoys 1 and 2 in the main channel of Pearl Harbor.

"Once a ship hits the buoys, it becomes our responsibility," said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Ruben Gutierrez. "For us to protect the ship is like someone protecting an admiral or a general in the desert. We make sure everything here remains a hard target for attack."

During their eight-hour watch on the harbor waters, the Sailors conduct routine three-hour checks of the Controlled Industrial Area of the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, and patrols areas such as the PACFLT boathouse and under the Ford Island Bridge. Patrol boats are also on hand for the departure and arrival of all vessels in the harbor.

"The channel is only 1,000 feet wide, and because it's so narrow, we need to ensure there isn't any traffic in and around that vessel that isn't already authorized," said Kintz. "If the ship is dead center in the water, with only 500 feet on each side, it's very tricky to keep other vessels outside the authorized area during a ship movement."

With the exception of two Sailors, Harbor Security is made up entirely of Master-at-Arms, and patrolling the harbor waters is a change of pace compared to the normal security detail.

"They're used to driving vehicles and now they have to drive boats. They're wearing a dual hat of a master-at-arms and a boatswain's mate," said Kintz. "Also, these Sailors work 24/7, including holidays, and are very professional about it. Most people have to work the holiday on a duty day, but these guys do it as part of their normal job."