Category Archives: homeland security

Aging Icebreaker Sets Polar Record

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) underway in the Chukchi Sea, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, at about 10:30 a.m. The 44-year-old heavy icebreaker is underway for a months-long deployment to the Arctic to protect the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region. U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Oldham.

The country’s only heavy icebreaker, U.S Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB-10), on Christmas Day reached a record-breaking winter Arctic latitude while in the course of a grueling 30-day winter deployment to wave the flag in the increasingly crowded northern seas.

As noted by the USCG:

Polar Star‘s crew navigated beyond 72 degrees latitude shortly before noon Friday before changing course and heading south to continue their Arctic deployment.

“The crew achieved a notable milestone Christmas Day by traversing farther into the harsh, dark winter Arctic environment than any cutter crew in our service’s history,” said Capt. Bill Woitrya, the cutter’s commanding officer.

“Our ice pilots expertly navigated the Polar Star through sea ice up to four-feet thick and, in doing so, serve as pioneers to the country’s future of Arctic explorations.”

With frigid Arctic winds and air temperatures regularly well below zero, Polar Star‘s engineers work around-the-clock to keep frozen machinery equipment running and the ship’s interior spaces warm enough for the crew.

The 44-year-old icebreaker is underway to project power and support national security objectives throughout Alaskan waters and into the Arctic, including along the Maritime Boundary Line between the United States and Russia.

The Polar Star crew is also working to detect and deter illegal fishing by foreign vessels in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone and conduct Arctic training essential for developing future icebreaker operators.

The Polar Star’s record-breaking winter Arctic latitude is 72° 11′ N.

It should be noted that Polar Star, while on her regular McMurdo resupply to the Antarctic last year– a mission suspended in 2020 due to the coof– suffered a serious electrical/engineering casualty underway, so it is nice to see that she is doing better this year and is headed back home.

Of course, her crew is having to battle that age-old boogeyman of the Arctic– knocking ice off the ship that accumulated from sea spray to keep topside weight to a manageable level. 

Those who have done the task know first hand it is one of those jobs that looks fun until you do it for about two minutes. 

Reverting back to Treasury, 75 Years ago Today

At the time of its inception in January of 1915, the U.S. Coast Guard was composed of approximately 1,800 officers and men from the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and approximately 2,200 from the U.S. Life-Saving Service. That number is good to keep in mind when compared to what the agency would muster just 30 years later.

As occurred during the Great War, on 1 November 1941, President Franking D. Roosevelt signed an executive order reassigning the service’s duties from the Treasury Department to the Navy for another world war.

Coast Guard Cutter Cuyahoga ready to depart from the Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, Md., Feb. 11, 1945. U.S. Coast Guard photo. Note her 40mm Bofors and Mousetraps crowding her bow.

In all, 214,000 personnel served in the Coast Guard during WWII, of whom 92 percent were in the USCGR, with an additional 125,000 personnel serving in the Temporary Reserve, the latter manning the myriad “Corsair Fleet” of 2,998 converted motor and sail craft used for local patrol that had been acquired through purchase, charter or gift, principally to combat the submarine menace along the coasts.

The USCG was very much in the cold-weather schooner biz in the 1940s, manning almost 3,000 small craft of all kinds to patrol the U.S. coastline. 

At its strongest, on 1 September 1945, the Coast Guard totaled 170,480, including 9,624 uniformed women serving in the SPARS.

1943- U.S. Coast Guard SPAR packing an M1903 Springfield rifle at the Cleveland Armory 

To patrol 3,700 miles of American beaches for saboteurs landing from the sea, a scratch force of 24,000 officers and men, assisted by over 2,000 sentry dogs and nearly 3,000 horses, was built from the ground up almost overnight.

A patrol somewhere along the Atlantic coast shown in the new uniform of the U.S. Coast Guard Mounted Beach Patrol, circa 1943

In addition to the 1,677 Coast Guard-flagged craft in active service at the end of the FY1945, Coast Guard personnel on 1 August 1945 were manning 326 Navy craft– including 76 LSTs, 21 cargo and attack-cargo ships, 75 frigates, and 31 transports– as well as 254 Army vessels, with about 50,000 Coastguard men serving on Navy and 6,000 on Army craft.

United States Coast Guard-manned LST beaching at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, Bismarck Islands, Dec 1943

The Coast Guard maintained nine air stations along the coasts of the United States, under the operational control of the various sea frontiers, with a total of 165 planes, including armed PBYs and J2Fs. These served as task units in the conduct of air-sea rescue. Assistance was rendered in 686 plane crashes and 786 lives were saved during FY1945 alone.

USCG PBY-5 Catalina over San Diego Bay. October 22, 1940

Some 28 USCG-manned vessels were lost during WWII, including three large cutters– Alexander Hamilton, Acacia, and Escanaba— adding 572 Coast Guardsmen to the massive butcher’s bill of the conflict.

On this day in 1945, the agency switched back to the Treasury Department, where it remained until 1972 when it moved to the Department of Transportation, and today it is in DHS, one of the inaugural agencies that started it in 2002.

For more on the USCG in WWII, check out the Coast Guard Historian’s portal on the subject.

If you are one of the 4+ million Stabilizing Brace Owners, now is your time

Federal regulators on Friday set off the starting pistol in the race to establish what stabilizing brace makers term the largest firearm registration scheme in American history. 

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives scheduled its proposed 15-page “Objective Factors for Classifying Stabilizer Braces” to publish Dec. 18 in the Federal Register, the official journal of the federal government, for public inspection. Americans have two weeks to provide feedback on the plan, which could be the last chance to make their voice heard on the issue before ATF moves forward.

Written comments on the ATF proposal must be postmarked by, and electronic comments must be submitted on or before Jan. 1, 2021, by midnight Eastern time. SB Tactical is also encouraging members of the public, who are concerned about the issue, to reach out to their lawmakers in Congress as well as the White House.

More background on the brace issue in my column at Guns.com here and here.

Happy B-day, National Guard

Not counting French and Spanish colonial militias, the first muster of what later evolved into the U.S. Army National Guard occurred 13 December 1636, when the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s General Court ordered the colony’s unorganized militia, consisting of all males between the ages of 16 and 60, organized into three permanent units– the North, South and East Regiments– to better provide for the common defense.

The First Muster By Don Troiani National Guard traces the traditional foundation to the East Regiment in Salem, the regiment formed as part of three organized by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636-37

“The First Muster” by Don Troiani, via the U.S. National Guard Bureau. The early colonial militia drilled once a week and provided guard details each evening to sound the alarm in case of attack.

The Guard has evolved much since then, especially in the wake of the Total Force concept after Vietnam. My son-in-law, long a member of the 155th ABCT, has deployed to the sandbox many more times than his family would like to talk about.

Happy 384th!

I’ve seen it: Possibly the neatest 3-pound pistol on the market

Florida-based Diamondback Firearms announced their new DBX 5.7x28mm pistol earlier this year and the neat little gun is now filtering out to the market.

Teased at SHOT Show when the gun was in pre-production, the large format pistol uses an adjustable dual gas piston action– no buffer tubes here– with a stainless steel 8-inch threaded barrel that ends in the company’s DBX series muzzle device. Using a receiver crafted from 7075 aluminum and an M-LOK-compatible 6061 aluminum handguard, the gun is light, coming in at a hair under 3-pounds on my scales right out of the box.

I’ve been messing with one for the past couple of weeks and my initial thoughts are up in my column at Guns.com.

Golden BB, DDG edition

Lost in the sauce in the past few days resulting in the excitement and afterglow of the recent NASA/SpaceX mission to the International Space Station was an interesting bit of space news.

Well, space/naval news, anyway: the first successful smackdown of a (simulated) ICBM at extreme altitude by a destroyer-launched SM-3.

As noted in a DOD presser:

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), and U.S. Navy sailors aboard the USS John Finn (DDG-113), an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) System-equipped destroyer, intercepted and destroyed a threat-representative Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) target with a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile during a flight test demonstration in the broad ocean area northeast of Hawaii, Nov. 16.

This event, designated Flight Test Aegis Weapon System-44 (FTM-44), was the sixth flight test of an Aegis BMD-equipped vessel using the SM-3 Block IIA guided missile. FTM-44 satisfies a Congressional mandate to evaluate the feasibility of the SM-3 Block IIA missile’s capability to defeat an ICBM threat before the end of 2020.

“This first-of-its-kind test shows that our nation has a viable option for a new layer of defense against long-range threats,” said Bryan Rosselli, vice president of Strategic Missile Defense at Raytheon Missiles & Defense.

Go ahead, spitball how many guns are in circulation

Of course, this is a moving target and in most cases would be considered something of a wild ass guess in most cases, but the NSSF, working with industry and regulatory data for the past couple of decades, came up with some interesting figures when it comes to the number of guns in private circulation in the U.S.

The big numbers: 434 million firearms, 20 million “modern sporting rifles” such as AR-15s, and 150 million magazines which are considered in eight or nine states to be “high capacity.”

Oof.

More in my column at Guns.com.

“He’s as bad as the worst and as good as the best of us”

The Treasury-class United States Coast Guard Cutter George W. Campbell (WPG/AGC/WHEC-32) was 327-feet of rock and roll. Entering service on the eve of WWII, she spent the conflict first on the razor edge of FDR’s neutrality patrol, then, once the balloon went up, as a Navy gunboat on the more frozen regions of the North Atlantic, shepherding 19 convoys across the big, U-boat infested waters.

It was on this duty that maritime artist Anton Fischer famously accompanied the ship.

Coast Guard Cutter Campbell by Fischer.

Campbell would end the war as an amphibious warfare command ship in the Pacific then go on to have tours in the Korean War and Vietnam before she was finally dispatched in 1984 in a SINKEX.

After that final mission, the Commandant of the Coast Guard flashed, “The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Queen,” celebrating her 46-year career.

However, this post is about Campbell’s equally famous mascot, Sinbad.

Sinbad of the USCGC Campbell (WPG-32) keeps an eye on the convoy in the North Atlantic with his fellow crewman, circa 1943

“Sinbad,” mascot on Coast Guard cutter Campbell, circa 1944, shown at “General Quarters” on the cutter’s 5″/51. Note the “kill” mark for a U-boat

As detailed by the USCGC’s Historian’s Office:

The crew of the Coast Guard cutter Campbell adopted a mixed-breed puppy in 1938. Little did they know that their canine companion would become a world-famous Coast Guard veteran. He was, literally, a member of the crew, complete with all the necessary enlistment forms and other official paperwork, uniforms, and his own bunk. He sailed on board the combat-tested cutter through World War II and saw much action, both at sea and in port.

As Life Magazine reported: “An Old Sea Dog Has Favorite Bars and Plenty of Girls in Every Port.” Until recently he had the honor and distinction of being the only Coast Guardsman to be the subject of a biography! It was Sinbad of the Coast Guard, written by Chief Specialist George R. Foley, USCGR and published by Dodd, Mead and Company of New York during the war. The book made him an international celebrity.

Sinbad was a common figure in recruiting-centered advertising during WWII.

Sinbad, who was aboard when Campbell fought U-606 on her convoy duty, was also kinda squirrely and got in trouble a lot. For instance, he was ashore on liberty one night in Southern Greenland and created quite a ruckus by chasing the residents’ sheep around the country-side. Sinbad was then duly masted and banished from shore leave in Greenland for the remainder of his days:

“Sinbad is a salty sailor but he’s not a good sailor. He’ll never rate gold hashmarks nor Good Conduct Medals. He’s been on report several times and he’s raised hell in a number of ports. On a few occasions, he has embarrassed the United States Government by creating disturbances in foreign zones. Perhaps that’s why Coast Guardsmen love Sinbad, he’s as bad as the worst and as good as the best of us.”

The old USCGC Campbell‘s name was recycled some 30 years ago in a 270-foot Famous-Class cutter homeported in Kittery, Maine. While she has had her own run-ins with a different kind of submarine in recent years.

A bronze Sinbad holds a place of honor over the cutter’s mess. 

Returning to her namesake’s stomping grounds, the current Campbell recently operated in conjunction with the Danish Navy in Greenland’s waters.

USCGC CAMPBELL transited south along the west coast of Greenland overnight with the HDMS KNUD RASMUSSEN and rendezvoused in a position just offshore of Evighedsfjorden (Eternity Fjord). CAMPBELL received KNUD’s Executive Officer, Commander Bo Ougaard, on board to serve as an ice pilot and provide local knowledge to assist CAMPBELL in safely entering and transiting Evighedsfjorden. Once inside Eternity Fjord, CAMPBELL launched her MH-65 Dolphin aircraft and proceeded up the fjord to the head where the glacier begins. (Photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy)

While in Greenland, they also took Sinbad ashore, with the Chiefs taking him drinking at a local dive.

Sinbad at the Port of Nuuk Greenland Campbell (Photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy)

As noted by Campbell’s goat locker:

Our Chief Petty Officers (the only ones allowed to touch the bronze Sinbad statue on our messdeck) brought Sinbad ashore in Nuuk, Greenland, for his return today. It’s good to see Sinbad back in Greenland again!

Bravo Zulu!

Coast Guard picks up even more FRCs, go Glock

If you have followed me here for even a minute, you know that I am a fan of the Coast Guard’s 154-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter program.

Sept 24, 2020: Coast Guard Fast Response Cutter Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) arrives in Guam, where four of her class will form a squadron in the U.S.’s most forward-deployed territory, so to speak. 

The $27 million-per-unit FRCs have a flank speed of 28 knots, state of the art C4ISR suite, a stern launch and recovery ramp for a 26-foot over-the-horizon interceptor cutter boat, and a combat suite that includes a remote-operated Mk38 25mm chain gun and four crew-served M2 .50 cals.

The addition of other light armaments, such as MK-60 quadruple BGM-176B Griffin B missile launchers, MK19 40mm automatic bloopers, and MANPADs, would be simple if needed, provided the Navy wanted to hand it over.

Based on the Dutch Damen Stan 4708 platform with some mods for U.S. use, Louisiana’s Bollinger Shipyards won a contract for the first unit, USCGC Bernard C. Webber (WPC-1101), in 2008 and has been plowing right along ever since.

Speaking of Bollinger, the yard just announced the USCG has exercised the contract option for another four craft, bringing the total number of hulls to 60, not an insignificant number.

It is thought the ultimate goal is to have 58 FRCs for domestic work– where they have proved exceedingly capable when operating in remote U.S. territories such as Guam, in the Caribbean, and in the Western Pacific– and six hulls for use in the Persian Gulf with the Coast Guard’s Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, a regular front-facing buffer force with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Changing pistolas

Guardsman on patrol somewhere along the Atlantic coast shown in the new uniform of the U.S. Coast Guard Mounted Beach Patrol, 1943. Note the M1917 revolver holster  S&W Victory Model in .38 Special and Army-pattern tack 

While under the Treasury Department, from 1790 to 1968, the Revenue Marine/Revenue Cutter Service/Coast Guard most commonly relied on pistols for their day-to-day work in countering smugglers, pirates, and other assorted scoundrels. These guns usually came from commercial sources. In fact, the old Revenue Cutter Service was one of the first organizations to buy large numbers of Mr. Colt’s revolvers, long before they were popular.

By WWI, the Cuttermen started using more standard handguns in line with the Navy, switching to .45ACP revolvers and pistols, which they utilized until switching to Beretta M9s in the mid-1980s– becoming the first branch of the military to be issued with the new 9mm.

In 2006, with the Coast Guard transferred to Homeland Security, they went with the then-common pistol used by the Secret Service and Federal Protective Service (the old GSA Police with better funding)– the Sig Sauer P229R DAK in .40S&W.

Fast forward to 2020 and the USCG is now using Glocks, piggybacking off the recent CBP contract, rather than go with the Sig Sauer M17/M18 as used by the rest of the military. 

The Coast Guard is now using the Glock 19 Gen5 MOS in 9mm as their standard handgun

Say it with me: Alto Tu Barco!

Of Munro and Blackjacks

The 418-foot Legend-class Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755), one of four stationed at Alameda, this week returned home after a 3-month multi-mission patrol that included both spending 37 days in the Bering Sea enforcing fisheries regulations and patrolling the maritime boundary line separating U.S. and Russian waters– interacting with a Russian Border Guard vessel in the process– then shipping down to Hawaii for two weeks of the biennial Rim of the Pacific 2020 (RIMPAC) exercises.

The nut to take from this is the fact that Munro spent a lot of her RIMPAC time practicing interoperability with Navy MH-60S Sea Hawks, a vital force multiplier that the big cutters of her class would no doubt embark in the event of a real-life DOD tasking.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 25, 2020) An MH-60S Sea Hawk Helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 hovers next to the U.S. Coast Guard Legend-class cutter USCGC Munro (WMSL 755) during exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2020. (U.S. Navy photo 200825-N-UM706-1593 by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Madysson Anne Ritter)

As noted by the USCG:

Munro’s patrol included the embarkation of a U.S. Navy MH-60S helicopter and aircrew from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21, nicknamed the “Blackjacks” during RIMPAC. Over two weeks, Munro and the Blackjacks conducted 380 flight evolutions, 55 touch and go landings, 34 vertical replenishment evolutions transferring cargo by helicopter, and multiple helicopter in flight refuels.

Now if the Navy could just add some Mk.32 ASW tubes, a towed array, and some ASuW missiles to the Legends

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