Navy sets up a new river combat command

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.— The Navy set up a new command on Friday for patrolling inland waterways at home and abroad, recreating a Vietnam-era force that had to be resurrected for the war in Iraq.

The new Coastal Riverine Force is the result of a merger between Riverine Group 1 and Maritime Expeditionary Security Force.

Riverines were created to patrol inland waterways during the Vietnam War, but were disbanded after. The Navy re-established the Riverine force in 2006 to take over inland waterway duties in Iraq from Marines. Some in the Riverine force feared that the same thing would happen after the U.S. withdrew from Iraq.

“There was some concern, but I think the Navy has had great foresight in keeping the riverine capability around because we are unique and we do bring a great deal to the table,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Fred Granados, who trains Riverines.

Among other things, Riverines can operate in less than a foot of water to provide extensive fire support for other units and can deliver equipment and personnel inland.

The new command will be responsible for traditional port and ship security in coastal waters as well as providing offensive combat capability in inland waterways. Besides Iraq, Riverines have been deployed to Africa, Asia and Central America in the past several years. Navy officials say the new command means there will be a seamless capability from brownwater tributaries to green coastal waters that can extend 600 nautical miles in some parts of the world.

“This is quite a turn of events when you look at where we started and where we’re going to end up when it’s all said and done,” Rear Adm. Michael Tillotson, commander of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, said during an establishment ceremony at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.

“The boats that sailors will be operating in the future will be more capable, they will have better armor, they will be faster and they will have the armament to take out a determined enemy. We’ve started along that road and we will continue to build that capability.”

The force comprises two groups, one based in Portsmouth, Va., and the other in Imperial Beach, Calif. Active squadrons in those groups will be located at other bases in each area. A deployed detachment is currently in Bahrain. Reserve squadrons are located in Newport, R.I., and Jacksonville, Fla.

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