Though known for its search-and-rescue efforts at sea, the U.S. Coast Guard (search) is now training members to fight terrorism.

The new Maritime Law Enforcement Training Center (search) has just opened at a former Naval base in Charleston, S.C., and will teach counterterrorism techniques to some 2,000 Coast Guard personnel each year.

So now, in addition to performing search-and-rescue and environmental protection missions, they’ll learn more traditional military and protective functions under the Department of Homeland Security (search).

Coast Guard members say they’ll remain the friendly forces saving boaters in distress. But in their new role, they’ll also be able to deal a crushing blow to any enemy that threatens U.S. waters.

“This unit is a direct outcome of the events of 9/11,” said Lee Alexander, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Special Missions Training Center at Camp LeJeune and a trainer at the new facility.

“We need them to learn how to work together as a team and learn to recognize what’s an attack and what’s not an attack so they use the appropriate level of force,” he said.

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Jonathan Serrie.