OAK ISLAND, NC (WBTV) - If you think the US Coast Guard along the Carolina Coast simply responds to stranded swimmers and boaters all day, you'd be underestimating the sheer amount of work they do.
Particularly the men and women who work out of the station on Oak Island, North Carolina.
We got exclusive access to the daily operations of the unit. They took us on a routine training drill and let us ride along as they conducted recreational boat inspections. However, it's what we didn't see that surprised us.
"We are busy because we have so many mission sets," BMC Jason Johnson, the Executive Petty Officer, told us.
They work search and rescue calls, provide maritime law enforcement and respond to pollution calls. Then there is their ever-increasing focus on coastal security.
"When it comes to law enforcement and waterway security we have a lot of boating traffic in this area," Johnson said.
They inspect recreational and commercial vessels looking for potential security threats. On each of those boardings they wear a special pager that can detect radiation in the area.
This crew also assists when called upon at the nearby nuclear plant on the coast. Then there is Sunny Point. It is a military port where a majority of ammunition and explosives used by the US military is stored. Ships come in and out all day carrying dangerous loads and it is the responsibility of the Oak Island guard to escort the ships in and out safely.
Ultimately, however, they know that the safety and security of the residents and vacationers along the Carolina coast is a top priority.
We asked them for safety advice for visitors to the area beaches. You can see their answers by watching the exclusive web extra video on this page.