As with the four other US military branches, the Coast Guard played a vital role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the operation, 1250 Coast Guard personnel were deployed, including 500 reservists, the largest Coast Guard overseas deployment since the Vietnam War. Coast Guard ships involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom included two cutters, a buoy tender, eight patrol boats, four port security units, as well as law enforcement detachments. The USCG also had personnel assigned to Central Commands of Naval Coastal Warfare Group One, Harbor Defense Command Unit 114, and the National Strike Force.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Coast Guard’s main priorities were maritime interception operations, coastal security, and enforcing U.N. sanctions. Patrolling alongside the US Navy and coalition naval forces, the Coast Guard worked to prevent the movement of Iraqi military forces and equipment. The Coast Guard was largely successful in their patrols – the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell identified and seized cargoes that were prohibited by U.N. sanctions; the Cutter Adak captured the first maritime enemy prisoners of war; patrol boats and law enforcement detachments were involved with identifying and seizing Iraqi mine laying vessels, securing waterways for relief and aid ships; and Law Enforcement Detachment 205 is credited with locating a large supply of Iraqi military weapons off the coast of Southern Iraq.
Being recognized as the leader in port security at home and overseas, the Coast Guard provided port security in Bahrain, Kuwait to insure humanitarian aid ships were able to reach their destinations. The Coast Guard was also deployed to provide security to the Iraqi oil terminals in the North Arabian Gulf, securing the oil fields that were vital to economic recovery in the region.
The Coast Guard adds value to the larger National Security Strategy goals and its abilities act as a force multiplier. Lessons learned during Operation Iraqi Freedom, historical data from maritime interdiction operations, and recent responses to environmental defense operations have proven the Coast Guard’s unique skill sets are valuable and must be utilized and maintained.