Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach Boarding Team – Leading the way

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ME1 Flores working with Los Angeles Port Police to complete specialized jacob’s ladder training. Photo by ME2 Robert Narvaez

Story by Lt. j.g. Lauren Gonzales

“Every time I would look at the cameras after a call for assistance …I saw a group of Coasties, the Blue Mist, sprinting to help.

-Jim McDonnell, Chief of the Long Beach Police Department, referring to the 2013 Long Beach Grand Prix

 The Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles – Long Beach  (LA-LB) Enforcement Division Boarding Team is one of the busiest in the Coast Guard.  On any given day, the Sector Boarding Team (SBT) performs law enforcement, port security, boating safety, and maritime smuggling interdiction missions throughout the Sector’s 350 miles of shoreline including the LA-LB port complex, the busiest container port in the U.S.  Last year, the SBT performed over 1,300 law enforcement and security boardings and participated in more than 15 special operations with federal, state, and local law enforcement organizations. 

 To ensure team safety, each SBT member is required to complete annual tactical training, which includes extensive training on a pilot ladder (a flexible hanging ladder better known as a “Jacob’s ladder”).  Working closely with our port partners, including Customs and Border Protection, Los Angeles Port Police, Los Angeles County Sheriffs and others, SBT members utilize the World War II-era floating museum, S.S. Lane Victory, to simulate embarking and disembarking large merchant vessels.  Our port partners provide transportation to the vessel and simulate various environmental hazards to mimic potential problems and the dangers involved with offshore boarding operations.  This specialized training builds camaraderie among agencies and enhances the competency and commitment to safety for the joint boarding teams.

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SBT at the 2013 Long Beach Grand Prix. Back: Lt. j.g. Earhart, Lt. j.g. Gracey, ME1 McMullen, MEC Peeples, ME1 Flores, ME1 Spicer, ME3 Purganon, ME2 Thorne. Front: Lt. j.g.Gonzales.
Photo by Grand Prix Staff

 The SBT’s close working relationship with local law enforcement agencies, as well as the Sector’s proximity to Hollywood, leads to a variety of unique opportunities. One recurring event is the Long Beach Grand Prix, the second largest spectator event in Southern California, typically drawing more than 175,000 spectators.  The SBT supports the Long Beach Police Department while coordinating with Maritime Safety and Security Team LA-LB, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the Long Beach Fire Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to ensure premier event safety and security.

 In addition to operations and specialized training, the SBT works closely with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to combat the growing maritime smuggling threat in California.  Through innovation and cooperation with law enforcement and public safety responders, the Maritime Coordination Center (MCC) was created.  The MCC facilitates the sharing of law enforcement information to improve communication, coordination and response protocols along Southern California’s maritime border.  SBT members stand watch within the MCC monitoring the operations of over 60 federal, state, and local partner agencies that utilize the MCC. Since the stand-up of the MCC in 2012, law enforcement interdiction rates of known smuggling events have increased exponentially.

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