Multiple agencies hold full-scale maritime security exercise in Port of Duluth-Superior

A sign at the Edge Hotel and Conference Center in Duluth, Minn., directs participants in a full-scale maritime security exercise, Aug. 24, 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class George Degener.

A sign at the Edge Hotel and Conference Center in Duluth, Minn., directs participants in a full-scale maritime security exercise, Aug. 24, 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class George Degener.

In the world today, cooperation between agencies responding to events that threaten the safety of the public is paramount. In that spirit of cooperation, more than 15 different federal, state and local agencies came together on Aug. 24, 2011 in an exercise held in the twin ports of Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wis.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Carol Baillie, center, a marine science technician assigned to the Atlantic Strike Team, provides coaching and guidance to Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Hieter, right, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Donald Munk, both marine science technicians from Marine Safety Unit Duluth, Minn., who were performing the duties of the resources unit at the Edge Hotel and Conference Center during Operation Down Under, Aug. 24, 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class George Degener.

Operation Down Under, led by Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Duluth, was a full-scale maritime security exercise designed to test response capabilities when responding to a possible attack on critical infrastructure in one of the most important port facilities in the United States.

This exercise was not based on any actual intelligence regarding a specific threat.

The Port of Duluth-Superior is often referred to as the “Great Lakes Bulk Cargo Capital,” and an average of 46 million tons of cargo is moved through it each year. Products like iron ore from Minnesota and grain from the Midwest are shipped to locations all over the world.

Operation Down under began with simulated suspicious activity being noticed by local law enforcement, and escalated to the point of multiple agencies using the Incident Command System to respond appropriately. This format is used at all levels of emergency response, and allows multiple agencies to set their professional egos aside and work together to protect America’s citizens and vital infrastructure.

The role players involved in Operation Down Under formed their unified command at the Edge Hotel and Conference Center in Duluth, and the exercise’s controllers interjected information and scenarios. The members of the unified command dispatched tactical assets into the field to detect, disrupt and deter the simulated terrorist activity.

Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Schofield, a member of the Coast Guard'€™s public information assist team, provides coaching and guidance to role players in the joint information center at the Edge Hotel and Conference Center during Operation Down Under, a multi-agency, full-scale exercise, Aug. 24, 2011. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class George Degener.

This exercise gave Coast Guardsmen, and role players from other agencies the opportunity to work together and share their best practices.  Members of the Coast Guard’s Deployable Operations Group, including Coast Guard divers and members of the National Strike Force, were involved in capacities ranging from tactical operators in the field to coaches and evaluators in the unified command and joint information center.

“This sort of exercise is vital to successful cooperation between all of the involved agencies,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Kenneth Bryan, commanding officer of MSU Duluth. “Not only does it show us in what areas we work well together, but more importantly, it shows us the areas in which we can make improvements to our tactics in a joint environment.”

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