A Meeting of Racing Stripes

The U.S. Coast Guard has been making great use of its large frigate-sized Berthoff-class national security cutters, showing them off in the past couple of years as true worldwide deployable assets. This has included several Westpac cruises and Fourth Fleet missions, and, as witnessed by the arrival of USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753) at her homeport Wednesday following a 94-day deployment as part of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, even Europe.

While some would grouse that it is out of step for the “Coast” Guard to deploy overseas under the Navy’s control in peacetime, it helps build those national defense/intelligence skills needed should they ever have to do it for real– of note, Hamilton exercised with the Gerald Ford carrier group while the new carrier made its first “warm” deployment— but also allows an easier mesh with allied littoral coast guard types than the Navy would be able to pull off with a 9,000-ton DDG.

Plus, things like migrant interdiction and fisheries enforcement missions aren’t really in Big Navy’s wheelhouse.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Arthur Flaherty, a boatswain’s mate assigned to the USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753), prepares to transfer Hamilton crewmembers onto the Swedish Coast Guard vessel Amfitrite in the Baltic Sea, Oct. 31, 2022. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alejandro Rivera)

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Denzel Canty and Petty Officer 3rd Class Drew Freiheit, maritime enforcement specialists assigned to USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753), conduct a tactical exercise with members of the Finnish Border Guard’s Special Intervention Unit while underway in the Baltic Sea, Nov. 3, 2022. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alejandro Rivera)

As noted by USCG Atlantic Area:

Hamilton began its deployment with a transatlantic voyage to Rota, Spain, and met with operational commanders from U.S. Sixth Fleet. After Spain, the cutter transited through the English Channel and Danish Straits, two vitally significant waterways that provide safe passage for 15% of the world’s shipping.

Immediately upon entering the Baltic Sea region, Hamilton conducted at-sea exchanges with naval, coast guard and border guard forces of multiple Baltic Sea allies and partners, including Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Each engagement was oriented to support either traditional Coast Guard missions or in combination with defense readiness exercises used to enhance interoperability between the U.S. and NATO partners.

As the first U.S. military vessel to visit Turku, Finland in over a decade, Hamilton hosted public tours of the cutter and held a reception for U.S. and Finnish government and military leaders. Guests included the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Finland, the deputy chief of the Finnish Border Guard, the state secretary of the Ministry of Interior, and the mayor of Turku. The visit also served to reinforce the long-standing partnership between the Finnish Border Guard and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Additionally, Hamilton is the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter to visit Riga, Latvia in more than 20 years. The crew met with the U.S. Ambassador to Latvia and hosted a reception on board Hamilton for members of Latvia’s navy and coast guard to include the Latvian navy’s chief of staff and the commander of the Latvian coast guard. Hamilton also served as a backdrop to Latvia’s 104th Freedom Day celebration alongside NATO forces.

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