Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

OFF THE COAST OF NORFOLK, Virginia -- The scenario: Neo-Nazi terrorists with a cache of radioactive material have taken over a three-deck tour boat out of Miami full of frightened tourists.

The rescue team: an elite cadre of Coast Guard operators with specialized training in ship boarding. Their uniforms were non-standard — some even wore high-top sneakers — but they sported arm patches bearing a common motto: "Nox Noctis est Nostri," The Night Is Ours.

These are the Coast Guard's little-known Maritime Security Response Teams, the closest the Department of Homeland Security-owned service gets to military special operations. Their profile in special ops-style ship boardings and close combat has loomed larger as the service as a whole takes on more strategic roles in national security despite budget constraints. In fact, Coast Guard MSRTs, as they're called, are now deployed to the Middle East, playing an increasingly significant role in drug-interdiction and anti-piracy operations around the Persian Gulf.

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