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Safety unit celebrates 10th anniversary
ST. MARYS -- Cmdr.-select Matt Baer said he and other members of the Coast Guard's Maritime Safety and Security Team knew Camden County was a strong supporter of the military.

But Baer, commanding officer of the team that provides services from port and special event security to environmental cleanups and disaster response, didn't expect a celebration Friday hosted by the community to commemorate the team's 10th anniversary.

"I was not expecting them to do this," Baer said. "I had no expectations this would be planned. We love being part of this community."

St. Marys Mayor Bill Deloughy said the unit, which shares a building with the city police department, has become an integral part of the community. "It's been great having these folks here," he said. "These folks have worked well with the police department."

David Burch, council president of the Camden-Kings Bay Navy League, said the Coast Guard should be nicknamed the "Undersea Service" because it's under valued, underappreciated and underfunded.

"For my money, the men and women of this unit are the real treasure," he said.

Sheila McNeill, president of the Camden Partnership, a group that supports the Coast Guard and Navy, emphasized the importance of the unit to national security.

"The Maritime Safety and Security Teams were established to bolster the Coast Guard's ability to protect this county's shores from any threats and to respond to specific episodic events requiring an increased security posture for a limited duration," she said. "They are capable of deploying personnel and equipment on short notice via air or ground."

McNeill talked about the 2010 attempt to decommission the St. Marys team and four others and the fight to convince Congress to restore funding.

"We went to Washington and called on every committee that had oversight over the Coast Guard and 210 congressional offices," she said.

McNeill said the idea for the celebration came from a woman after the decision by Congress to keep the unit intact.

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at, on Facebook or at 464-7655.

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