ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A new rapid-response military force has found a home in Alaska.
The Coast Guard antiterrorism unit assigned to by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is one of nine such teams currently stationed at ports throughout the country.
All of the units, plus two yet to be commissioned, were formed in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Coast Guard said. Each team bears a number designation beginning with 911.
The 74 men and two women who form the Coast Guard's Maritime Safety and Security Team 91111, the Anchorage force commissioned Oct. 15, can meet a terrorist threat or incident in a port or waterway anywhere in Alaska and in other Pacific Coast states, said Lt. Cmdr. Steven Bosau, the unit's chief officer.
``Our whole concept,'' Bosau said, ``is pack up small and go.''
Immediately after the terrorist attacks, the Coast Guard mobilized more than 2,000 reservists in the largest port security operation since World War II, according to officials. It began patrolling the nation's 361 ports and 95,000 miles of coastline aggressively on the watch for anyone with hostile intentions.
Those patrols, however, often occupied personnel, boats and other equipment used in the enforcement of drug and maritime laws and search-and-rescue operations, the more traditional Coast Guard missions, said Lt. j.g. Steve Rodanhisler, leader of one of three detachments of the Anchorage team.
The new teams, on the other hand, will focus exclusively on port security, Rodanhisler said.
The Anchorage unit will participate in search-and-rescue, drug enforcement and other nonsecurity operations from time to time, but only if its members and their equipment are not working security details, Rodanhisler said.
Chief Darrell Wilson, a Coast Guard spokesman, said the U.S. Department of Defense ranked the Port of Anchorage as the 15th most strategic port in the country because of its relative position on the globe and the fact that 80 percent of all goods consumed in the state, including all the fuel used in Bush Alaska, enter through Anchorage.
The city also lies beside two U.S. military installations, Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson.
Should the U.S. Army Alaska decide to deploy its quick-response Stryker Brigade or other units to a foreign land, shipping them out through the Port of Anchorage, the team would secure their departure by protecting the waterside.