Patrol Forces Southwest Asia

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USCGC Adak (WPB 1333), one of six 110-foot patrol boats assigned to PATFORSWA

Patrol Forces Southwest Asia or PATFORSWA is a United States Coast Guard command based in Manama, Bahrain. PATFORSWA was created in November 2002 as a contingency operation to support the U.S. Navy with patrol boats. The command’s mission is to train, equip, deploy and support maritime forces conducting operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) In the Naval Forces Central Command’s area of responsibility.[1] It was commissioned as a permanent duty station in June 2004.[2] In July 2003 PATFORSWA moved from its own compound to facilities at Naval Support Activity Bahrain.[3]

Unit History[edit]


Initial preparations for naval operations supporting OIF began with the U.S. Navy in the summer and fall of 2002. The navy drew upon its standing contingency plans for combat operations involving Iraq and, in September 2002, United States Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) requested U.S. Coast Guard support for a mission termed “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” The navy saw the Coast Guard’s cutters and skilled personnel as ideally suited to naval operations supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. The shallow coastal areas and waterways of Iraq are subject to heavy silting and strategists believed that Iraq’s primary threat to American naval units came from small boats, patrol craft and mine laying vessels. The Coast Guard’s patrol boats would expand the naval presence to shallow littoral areas where larger naval combatants could not navigate and Coast Guard cutters could remain on station for days as opposed to only a few hours typical of the navy’s Special Forces boats. In addition, the law enforcement background of Coast Guard personnel would expand the navy’s ability to intercept and board Iraqi vessels and Coast Guard cutters could serve in force protection and escort duty, thereby freeing naval assets to conduct offensive combat operations.

The navy called on the Coast Guard to perform missions that have always formed part of the service’s peace-time mission. The navy had very limited capability in boarding, maritime interdiction and even environmental protection and yet operations in Iraq would require units trained in these operations. As a result, the Coast Guard’s Port Security Units (PSUs), Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDETs), National Strike Force (NSF), cutters and a variety of other units and personnel deployed overseas to support military operations in OIF. These units included cutters assigned to provide escort and force protection to battle groups and Military Sealift Command (MSC) convoys passing from the Strait of Gibraltar to the eastern Mediterranean.

As it had in previous American combat operations, the Coast Guard conducted operations well suited to cutters and their crews. The maritime conditions of Iraq and the Persian Gulf can greatly limit the operations of most naval vessels and warships. U.S.-led Coalition forces that allied against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein included Gulf-based nations that had their own coast guard forces. However, these particular Coalition forces dedicated the use of their smaller vessels to protecting Kuwait, rather than operations in Iraqi territorial waters. Due to this and the Coast Guard’s expertise in littoral and shallow-water operations, a large part of the request by United States Central Command (CENTCOM) centered on the Coast Guard’s smaller patrol boats. Although various Coast Guard units and personnel had served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the 1990s, deployment of the service’s island-class patrol boats overseas would represent the first combat deployment of Coast Guard patrol boats since the Vietnam War.

Even though the Coast Guard served a similar mission in Vietnam, there existed no operational plan to provide guidance for OIF planning and preparations. The Coast Guard began its earliest preparations in the final months of 2002 and the lack of any pre-existing plan or blueprint for this sort of mission proved the Coast Guard’s greatest challenge. The service’s Atlantic Area Command (LANTAREA), headquartered in Portsmouth, Virginia, created a shore detachment to support its cutter operations overseas. These patrol forces detachments would oversee all aspects of operational support, including cutter maintenance and crew rotation. In October, LANTAREA created a shore detachment to oversee personnel, supply and maintenance requirements for patrol boat operations in the Persian Gulf. It designated this detachment as Patrol Forces, Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA). LANTAREA assigned an officer in charge (OIC) of PATFORSWA and selected four 110-foot Island-class patrol boats (WPBs) for the mission based on their superior maintenance records. These WPBs included Adak, Aquidneck, Baranof and Wrangell. LANTAREA created a second shore detachment for patrol boat operations in the Mediterranean; designated it Patrol Forces, Mediterranean (PATFORMED); and selected four more patrol boats for Mediterranean service. These WPBs included Bainbridge Island, Grand Isle, Knight Island and Pea Island.[4]

In 2004, two additional WPBs, Monomoy and Maui, were brought to the PATFORSWA fleet for a total number of six Coast Guard Patrol Boats in the Persian Gulf.


Cranes lower a Coast Guard Patrol Boat into the water. Four USCG boats were shipped aboard a cargo vessel from various bases in the United States for duty in the Mediterranean.

The Coast Guard deployed its PATFORMED patrol boats in similar fashion to the PATFORSWA 110s. WPBs Bainbridge Island, Grand Isle, Knight Island and Pea Island arrived at Augusta Bay, Sicily, after a one-month transit on board BBC Spain. It took a monumental effort by PATFORMED support staff to prepare for patrol boat operations in the Mediterranean because no Coast Guard infrastructure existed in the region.

In the Mediterranean, Coast Guard operations supported naval and Military Sealift Command operations in the region. During combat operations in the Persian Gulf, PATFORMED patrol boats supported naval operations in the Mediterranean. The WPBs’ primary mission had been to escort navy supply vessels and Military Sealift Command ships out of Souda Bay, Crete, the eastern Mediterranean’s logistics port for American and NATO forces. The naval command cancelled this mission when Turkey would not support the use of its territory for supplying a northern front in Iraq. The four cutters then came under the operational command of the navy’s Task Force 60 for Leadership Interdiction Operations (LIO) in the eastern Mediterranean. This mission required the cutters to cut off a waterborne escape route for Iraqi leaders fleeing through Syria and into the Mediterranean. Syria, however, agreed to seal its borders, cutting off the escape route through its territory to the Mediterranean coast. Shortly after Syria closed its borders, the Sixth Fleet released the PATFORMED cutters from operations in the Mediterranean, the cutters then returned to United States.[5]


Patrol boats[edit]

A member of USCGC Adak's boarding team conducting training in the Persian Gulf.

There are six Coast Guard 110' Island class patrol boats assigned to PATFORSWA: USCGC Adak (WPB-1333), USCGC Aquidneck (WPB-1309), USCGC Baranof (WPB-1318), USCGC Maui (WPB-1304), USCGC Monomoy (WPB-1326), and USCGC Wrangell (WPB-1332).[6]

Maritime Engagement Team (MET)[edit]

Members of the Maritime Engagement Team demonstrate boarding techniques.

The Maritime Engagement Team (MET) is responsible for providing specialized law enforcement training to all cutters in theater and certifying their Level II Non-Compliant Boarding Teams. They also regularly augment other teams and assets in theater and perform boardings in the Persian Gulf, train foreign military units throughout the region, and conduct demonstrations for visiting VIP's.[7]

Redeployment Assistance Inspection Detachments[edit]

Redeployment Assistance Inspection Detachments (RAID) consisted of Coast Guard members deployed with the U.S Army to support the shipment of materials in and out of war zones. Their mission was to assist the Department of Defense with the safe re-deployment of containerized cargo as well as the storage and segregation of hazardous materials. The Coast Guard's goal was to ensure that hazardous material was properly prepared for shipment and re-entry to U.S. ports. The team moved between Forward Operating Bases, making them among the few Coast Guardsmen to have been so far forward with the U.S. Army in a combat zone.[8]

The first RAID was deployed in 2003 and they were brought under the PATFORSWA command structure in 2010. The Raid was demobilized in May 2015. [9]

Shoreside support[edit]

Shoreside personnel augment and share responsibility for all cutter maintenance, much like a Maintenance Assistance Team and a Sector. In addition, all shoreside personnel provide anti-terrorism force protection (ATFP) support.[10]

See also[edit]