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CJTF-HOA small craft det keeps Army's Spearhead free from danger

By Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald | | February 22, 2003

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"Since the U.S.S. Cole was attacked, the enemy knows a small boat attack is an effective form of terrorism. It's our job to make sure that doesn't happen," said Sgt. Erick J. Hodge, the noncommissioned-officer-in-charge of the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa small craft detachment.

The detachment is comprised of hand-picked Marines from Small Craft Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2d Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

They are assigned to CJTF-HOA in support of the war against terrorism.

Recently, Hodge, a Port Huron, Mich., native, and his Marines provided port security using combat rubber reconnaissance crafts, also known as Zodiacs, while the U.S. Army's High Speed Theater Support Vessel-1X Spearhead refueled at Djibouti's port.

"This is the first time we've done a port security mission since we've been out with (CJTF-HOA). It's not a normal mission for us," said Hodge. "A normal mission would be a ship-to-shore raid."

In order to prepare for the real-world mission, Capt. Jaisun Hanson, CJTF-HOA security detachment fficer-in-charge, stated, "We had the Coast Guard Mobile Training Team from Courthouse Bay, (N.C.) teach us about port security before we left Camp Lejeune. The Marines took that training and built on it so they could provide waterborne security for CJTF-HOA."

During their training at Camp Lejeune, the detachment received classroom instruction, practical application exercises and one-on-one time with the instructors.

"There are so many variables with port security," explained three-year Small Craft veteran Cpl. Tyler S. Spellich, a coxswain. "There are so many hiding places and avenues of approach we have to be constantly aware of."

As coxswain, Spellich, of Chicago, was in charge of maintaining his Zodiac and keeping a vigilant eye during the mission. His crew was responsible for watching for stray boats in the waters near Spearhead.

The Marines also worked hand-in-hand with soldiers from the Djiboutian army.

Spellich added, "Djiboutian soldiers also rode with us because they wanted to learn about port security. This was new for them, too. We showed them what we know, and they learned from our example."

The Marines' day began before the crack of dawn and ended more than 12 hours later.

"The Marines did an outstanding job. They work well on their own, with very little instruction. Their job was to ensure the safety of this vessel, and they did just that," said Hanson, of Auburn Hills, Mich.
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