Shore Patrol, it could be worse

4 Nov 2001 | Sgt Thomas Michael Corcoran

The USS Bataan, carrying Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and Amphibious Squadron-8, pulled away from the Pier with a renewed spirit Nov. 4, after a few days of well-deserved liberty in the Cretan town of Chania. Service members enjoyed downtown Chania's tourism, shopping, excellent food and drink, and waterfront nightlife, incident-free. This incident-free experience may or may not have been because of the efforts of the 'shore patrol,' but shore patrol certainly helped. Shore patrol, nothing new to the Naval Services, is something your parents may recall had they ever served in the Navy or Marines. Of course, they would probably remember a Marine is his Service 'C' service uniform or a Sailor in dungarees, each having an arm band marked 'SP' in their respective service colors. They were a visible deterrent for service members becoming too rowdy and a friendly face when they got into a bind. Today, you'll find shore patrol dressed far more discreetly. If they're 'out-in-town' they're in civilian attire. And you'll also find that the attitude toward shore patrol, both of the Marines and Sailors assigned to it and those on liberty, more friendly than in the days of the visible 'SP's.' "After being cooped up on a ship for '30-some-days,' this gives them [Marines and Sailors on liberty] a chance to vent and have a good time," said Cpl. Joshua H. Pratt, 26th MEU (SOC) shore patrol. "I think they deserve it." Pratt, the Middlebury, Conn., native, explained that just knowing shore patrol is on the job and in the area provides Marines and Sailors with the little extra push they may need to make the right decision. However, Pratt said, it also provides them with a sense of security. "They know there is someone out there looking for them in case they lose their buddy or need help getting back to the ship." "I think some people have this idea that they're the enemy," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Aurora F. Selby, USS Bataan air traffic controller. Selby, while out enjoying Chania, stopped to recognize shore patrol's importance. "They are here to make sure everybody is acting appropriately, and should anything happen, to get people to where they need to be," said the Greensboro, N.C., Sailor. Corporal Johnny Cochran, 26th MEU (SOC) shore patrol, enjoyed himself the night before he had shore patrol duty. "When you're on shore patrol, you come out here and see everyone having a good time just like you were the night before." Nowadays, shore patrol should take a more relaxed approach, according to Cochran. Using a down-home analogy, the Goodwater, Ala., native, described shore patrol as, "It's like letting the dog run, but putting her on a long leash." It wasn't too difficult to keep things under control, Staff Sgt. Don W. Miner, 26th MEU (SOC) shore patrol explained. The Marines hadn't been off the ship for a while and were excited to see the sights and sounds of the quaint little city. Although, the area the patrol covered in Chania was much wider than the Bat Cave, N.C., native had been accustomed to in the past. "I look at it [shore patrol] as an opportunity to 'chill out,' without your peers pressuring you to drink," said Miner. "It gives you a chance to enjoy the culture as well. Compare this to an American city like New York and it is very much different." However, Miner knows the value of his duties as a member of the patrol. In very simple terms, he sees his mission as, "to make sure everybody gets back to the boat safely." They remember the measures taken to make their time on land safe. Whether it was a helpful word to get them on the right path or an escort to assist them in getting back on board the Bataan, there is no doubt the shore patrol was an asset in making this a very memorable port visit.' The food, shopping and nightlife put a fresh 'charge' into the Marines and Sailors of the USS Bataan, leaving them with a fresh focus on the challenges that lie ahead as they leave Chania and the Island of Crete behind.While they're not the uniformed shore patrolmen your parents might remember from the past, they are part of the sharpening stone that keeps the 'tip of the spear,' combined of the Marines and Sailors of the 26th MEU, ever sharp, vigilant and combat ready even while enjoying their role as American Ambassadors abroad.