U.S. COAST GUARD
The Coast Guard’s Deployable Specialized Forces (DSF) offer the service a unique capability that is rarely associated with the maritime agency.
They frequently conduct exercises with the
Department of Defense (DoD), although the specifics
of those are rarely disclosed, while also participating in
a number of National Special Security Events that have
ranged from assisting with waterways security during
Pope Francis’ visit in September to providing support
during the trial for Boston Marathon bomber Dzho-khar Tsarnaev earlier this year.
They also provide a surge capacity for local Coast
Guard units that may deal with issues such as flooding,
hurricane recovery or tornado cleanup. Forces were
deployed to New York during Super Bowl XLVIII in
February 2014 to serve as an additional layer of defense
along with port partner agencies, including crews from
Coast Guard Station New York, and Maritime Safety and
Security Teams from New York and Boston.
Over the last year, forces have supported DoD activi-
ties in Afghanistan, assisted in the removal of chemical
weapons from Syria and provided maritime security for
U.S. Central Command in South-
west Asia. DSF also has a year-
round port security unit guarding
the harbor at Guantanamo Bay
Naval Station in Cuba.
Personnel are quick to point out
that they are not a special operations force and do not conduct special operations like the DoD’s
Special Operations Command. The
Coast Guard DSF will take part in
joint exercises with special operations, though, and work alongside
DoD in training and operations
when called upon.
“The DSF makes up a third of the
Coast Guard’s Maritime Trident of
The DSF has seen a makeover over the last two
years. In 2013, the Deployable Operations Group,
which oversaw all DSF forces — including Maritime
Security Response Teams, Maritime Safety and Security
Teams, Port Security Units, Tactical Law Enforcement
Teams, the National Strike Force, Regional Dive
Lockers and Naval Coastal Warfare personnel — was
decommissioned and control of DSF was transferred to
the respective commanders of the Coast Guard’s
Atlantic and Pacific areas.
In Coast Guard Commandant ADM Paul F. Zukunft’s Western Hemisphere Strategy, released in 2014,
he specifically noted the importance of the DSF,
describing it as highly proficient teams of both active-duty and Reserve members that employ specialized
capabilities and tactics, techniques and procedures to
conduct a range of operations to achieve mission
Deployable Specialized Forces assist with
Coast Guard missions at home and abroad
By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Special Correspondent
The Coast Guard’s Deployable Specialized Forces (DSF) provide
the service with capabilities that allow it to be called upon for a
number of nontraditional missions.
■ DSF has a year-round port security unit guarding the harbor at
Guantanamo Bay Naval Station.
■ Personnel assisted in security for the duration of the Boston
Marathon bombing trial.
■ While elements of the DSF existed as early as 1982, with the inception of the Tactical Law Enforcement Teams designed to aid the war
on drugs, it was not until after 9/11 that the DSF took the form it has
now with the additional emphasis on protecting the homeland.