NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) -- Safety and education are top priorities for the U. S. Coast Guard. But it goes beyond that for these men and women. For they are truly the front line when it comes to security along our coast. It's an important layer to the Guard's overall mission to protect our waterways from any given threat.
Sept. 11, 2001. The world changed. We sat in horror staring at concrete and steel collapse upon itself, our nation at a turning point. Ten years later, the way we drive, fly, and ride the rails falls under the umbrella that if we see something we should say something. What can not be overlooked are our waters; our harbors, our marinas, our ports, our nautical playgrounds that could be equally as vulnerable.
And that's where the Coast Guard comes into the picture.
"I think the biggest change we've had post 9/11 would be the standardization of the service," said Machinery Technician Timothy Bible. "Across the country, from Connecticut to Texas to Alaska, the mission is the same. It's homeland security. We've increased our mission patrols, our training, primarily we've expanded the ultimate mission of the Coast Guard."
The Coast Guard, originally founded as the Revenue Cutter Service, has been patrolling American waters since our country was in its infancy. As the nation expanded so too did the agency's responsibilities, from capturing British seaman in the War of 1812, enforcing Prohibition in the 1920's, to sinking German and Japanese submarines during World War II. National security and law enforcement has always been a staple.
"There is a lot of responsibility that goes along with it," Bible said. "A lot of people don't realize we are military. Whether we're out here doing recreational boardings, talking about boating safety, or whether we're doing local training with local fire and police departments to plan for major events that could happen, or whether we're doing maritime domain awareness patrols, we're conducting tactical missions and such."
Much of what goes on behind-the-scenes can't be discussed out of the interest of national security. But anyone that has even driven along the coastline of the Long Island Sound can see there are a number of areas - some would say targets - that are housed in Connecticut that must be protected. Oil tank farms and a nuclear power plant are less than fifty miles from one another. The stronger the presence the bigger the deterrent.
"There's a lot of critical infrastructure here," Bible said. "The Coast Guard has put a lot of time and a lot of money into properly training us and providing us with the proper tools that we need for protecting that infrastructure. So daily, we conduct random patrols all hours. We have crews that are on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You never know when we're going to be out here."
What September 11th taught us is that we can never again put our guard down. But it's not just symbols of financial dominance or defense that must be protected. The freedoms we enjoy, even out on the water, need a watchful eye. Sometimes, those protectors are found on a boat, and sometimes the greatest line of defense is us.
"We ask the public to keep an eye out for us," Bible said. "We can't be everywhere at once, although we can be at places pretty fast. We're not always right there. Asking the public to keep an eye out. Get to know your Coast Guard and get to know your local agencies. The more eyes the better."
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