une2015.QXD_Seapower June 2015 6/17/15 4:33 PM Page 14
SPECIAL REPORT / LITTORAL & BROWN-WATER OPS
After years of patrolling Iraq’s waterways, NECC’s
Coastal Riverines take on new role in the Asia-Pacific
By DANIEL P. TAYLOR, Special Correspondent
Bridging the Gap
Today’s Coastal Riverine Force is the result of a 2012 merger of
riverine forces and the Maritime Expeditionary Force into one unit
composed of 2,500 active and 2,000 Reserve Sailors.
; The move consolidated operations into a core unit focused on
green- and brown-water operations, bridging the gap between the
blue-water ships of the Navy and land-based forces.
; Riverines spend their time operating with other nations that
have similar forces or in exercises.
; They also are tasked with a range of responsibilities, including port
and harbor security, and protection and escort of high-value assets.
ing the riverine forces and Maritime
Expeditionary Force into one unit
composed of 2,500 active and 2,000
Reserve Sailors. The aim was to consolidate those operations into a core
unit focused on green- and brown-water operations, bridging the gap
between the blue-water ships of the
Navy and land-based forces. They
are tasked with a range of responsibilities, including port and harbor
security, and protection of high-value assets.
Tight budgets, a new theater of operations and a new order of priorities in the Pentagon have created a very different role for Navy
Expeditionary Combat Command’s (NECC’s) riverine
forces for the time being — one that would seem on
the face of it to be not as active a role as they were in
the combat environment of Iraq.
CORIVFOR today is organized
into two headquarters staffs, with
Coastal Riverine Group 1 on the
West Coast and Coastal Riverine
Group 2 on the East Coast.
“Since the merge, we’re really using that pre-existing
manpower that was previously used toward riverine-only
missions, and now we’re using that capacity to fill maritime security missions including harbor security, high-value escorts and things like that,” Berning said.
“Riverine-wise, we’re kind of on pause right now,”
said CDR Pete Berning, branch head for Coastal Riverine
forces at NECC, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va., said of the traditional coastal mission.
The riverine mission has not advanced much from a
technology and tactics standpoint since 2010, Berning
said. The Navy essentially feels that it has what it needs
when it comes to riverine capacity.
It has been more than a decade since riverine forces
vaulted back into their most important role since perhaps the Vietnam War, with the outbreak of the war in
Iraq in the early 2000s. For many years, those forces
were a critical part of the war effort in the dangerous
waterways in U.S. Central Command.
The riverine forces spend their time operating with
other nations that operate similar forces or in exercises
as opposed to securing a section of river or supporting
land forces as they did in Iraq.
There are approximately 2,000 Coastal Riverines
operating in the Pacific today, mostly watching over
sea lanes and providing security where needed.
But now the focus has shifted to the Pacific, and
despite more than enough waterways for the riverines
to patrol, they are settling into a somewhat different
posture, Berning told Seapower.
That essentially started when the Coastal Riverine
Force (CORIVFOR) was created in summer 2012, merg-
Although the riverines do not need to have the same
sort of active combat role they had in Iraq for the
Pacific region, there’s still plenty of jobs for them to do.
They are active in infrastructure protection, search and
seizure, fire support, port security, persistent ISR
(intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance), the-
14 SEAPOWER / JUNE 2015