Category Archives: homeland security

Edenton/Haley Soldiers On

Following an extended $6 million seven-month dry dock maintenance period in Seattle, the one-of-a-kind 282-foot British-built Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley (WMEC-39) returned to her homeport at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska earlier this month.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley returns to homeport at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska, on Jan. 12, 2023. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Gray

As noted by Coast Guard 17th District (Alaska)

The engineering department oversaw 76 work items including major overhauls on the cutter’s controllable pitch propeller system, speed reducers, rudders, and boilers, along with inspections of fuel, sewage, and water tanks. The operations department supervised a renewal of Alex Haley’s flight deck, navigation systems, and electronics while maintaining critical law enforcement currencies. The deck department expertly completed vast amounts of painting and topside preservation, while ensuring small boat operational readiness.

The Coast Guard Alex Haley sits dry-docked for repairs and maintenance in Seattle, Washington, on Dec. 13, 2022. While in the dry dock, the crew and contractors successfully completed more than $6 million worth of repairs.

In typical USCG fashion, Haley is one of the oldest ships in the U.S. maritime service, with 56 years on her hull and another decade of service looming.

Built by Brooke Marine in Lowestoft, Sussex between 1967-71 as USS Edenton (ATS-1), the 3,500-ton vessel was the lead ship of a three-hull class of salvage and rescue ship capable of worldwide operations.

USS Edenton (ATS-1) NHHC L45-82.06.01

Joining the fleet when commissioned on 23 January 1971, as part of the Second Fleet, she would go on to complete no less than nine extended Med cruises and one West Pac deployment before she was decommissioned on 29 March 1996, completing 25 years “haze gray and underway.” Of note, the builder of the class, Brooke Marine, had gone into receivership and been sold off almost a decade prior, while the class’s Paxman diesels were increasingly unsupportable.

Edenton was stricken from the Navy List on 29 December 1997.

While her sisters USS Beaufort (ATS-2) and Brunswick (ATS-3) would be retired at the same time, they would retain their extensive salvage gear fit and be sold in a hot “as-is” transfer to the South Korean Navy, where they linger in service as ROKS Pyeongtaek (ATS-27) and ROKS Gwangyang (ATS-28), respectively.

As for Edenton, over a two-year period, she would land much of her deep water salvage gear to make room for a helo deck, grab a white paint scheme with a racing stripe, trade her vintage Mk 16 20mm guns for MK38 Bushmaster 25mm mounts, swap her Paxmans for Catapillars, and ship off to Kodiak where she would take the place after WWII-era icebreaking cutter USCGC Storis (WAGL-38/WMEC-38) was retired, as the Coast Guard’s primary live-in asset in the Bering Sea. Of note, that is why Haley carries the next hull number in line (WMEC-39) after Storis.

Her missions typically involve search and rescue, fisheries law enforcement, and vessel safety inspections across Alaska.

Since her commissioning in USCG service on 10 July 1999, ex-Edenton has carried the name of the late Alexander Palmer Haley, Chief Journalist, USCG (Ret.).

Long before he drew international acclaim for Roots, Haley enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1939 as a mess attendant/steward and, serving through WWII on the cutters Mendoza and Pamlico and in the Pacific Threatre on the cargo vessel USS Murzim (AK-95), contributed articles to the Coast Guard Magazine and started a mimeographed ship’s newspaper. Switching to a Journalist rate in 1949, he would transfer to the Reserve list in 1959, completing 20 years of active duty including WWII service across three theatres and Korean War service. He would then go on to become a senior editor for Reader’s Digest and conduct a series of brilliant interviews for Playboy in the 1960s, back when folks really did buy it for the articles, before becoming a household name.

JOC Haley passed in 1992, aged 70.

The Mighty D hangs up her guns

The sun is getting low on the half-century-old Reliance class cutters, and one of my favorite ones just finished up her last official tasking.

Via Coast Guard LANT

USCGC Decisive returns home from Eastern Pacific Ocean deployment, completing final patrol

PENSACOLA, Fla. — The crew of the USCGC Decisive (WMEC 629) returned to their homeport in Pensacola, Friday, following a 33-day patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, concluding 55 years of service to the Nation.

Decisive patrolled the Eastern Pacific Ocean in the Coast Guard Eleventh District’s area of operations. While underway, the Decisive’s crew supported the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction and search and rescue missions to promote safety of life at sea and deter the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States.

While deployed, Decisive’s crew collaborated with Coast Guard assets and foreign military aircraft to detect, deter, and interdict illegal narcotics voyages. At one point, Decisive disrupted two vessels suspected of drug trafficking in the same night. Decisive also collaborated with the USCGC Alert (WMEC 630) to safely transfer three suspected smugglers. While aboard Decisive, the detainees received food, water, shelter and medical attention.

“The crew’s remarkable professionalism, competence and determination were on full display as we met the diverse challenges of operations at sea,” said Cmdr. Aaron Delano-Johnson, commanding officer of Decisive. “Whether it was conducting simultaneous boardings or our skilled engineers conducting voyage repairs in Panama, the crew exceeded expectations at every turn. After a successful, final patrol for Decisive, we are looking forward to returning home to our family and friends on shore.”

During the patrol, Decisive traveled more than 6,000 miles and traversed through the Panama Canal. By transiting the historic waterway, Decisive’s crew earned their Order of the Ditch certificates, a time-honored nautical tradition recognizing mariners who have crossed the Panama Canal between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Decisive is a 210-foot, Reliance-class medium endurance cutter with a crew of 72. The cutter’s primary missions are counter-drug operations, migrant interdiction, and search and rescue in support of U.S. Coast Guard operations throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Back in 2011, while working on an article about the old girl for Sea Classics, I spent a day hanging out with the Swamp Rats of Decisive while she was based at CGS Pascagoula, formerly NAVSTA Pascagoula, directly across from Ingalls on Singing River Island. Since Decisive moved to Pensacola in 2017, the sprawling base, which had been originally intended for a battleship surface action group in the 1980s, has largely just hosted a Sentinel-class (154-foot) fast response cutter and the occasional passing NOAA survey ship in addition to overflow from Ingalls.

Anyway, enjoy! These were cleared by 8th District over a decade ago, but never published. 

So the DOD’s Annual UFO report is out

Statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder on the Annual Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP):

Yesterday the Director of National Intelligence delivered to Congress the Annual Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (now Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP)) as required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.   

Analyzing and understanding the potential threats posed by UAP is an ongoing collaborative effort involving many departments and agencies, and the Department thanks the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for leading a collaborative effort to produce this report, as well as the other contributing departments and agencies.

The safety of our service personnel, our bases and installations, and the protection of U.S. operations security on land, in the skies, seas, and space are paramount.  We take reports of incursions into our designated space, land, sea, or airspaces seriously and examine each one.

The All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) is leading DOD’s efforts, in coordination with ODNI and other government agencies, to document, analyze, and when possible resolve UAP reports using a rigorous scientific framework and a data-driven approach. 
   
You can find the unclassified version of the ODNI UAP report on dni.gov.

Blue water sailor…

“If you’re not shippin’ green you don’t deserve sea pay…”

This was recently posted on the social media page maintained by the frigate-sized Legend-class National Security Cutter USCGC Stratton (WMSL-752). Stationed at Alameda, California, and assigned to the Coast Guard Pacific Area, she is currently on a Bering Sea patrol.

On the way to the Arctic, CGC Stratton transited north through some heavy seas off the Pacific Northwest. At times, the sea spray reached as high as CGC Stratton’s mast, which is nearly 150 feet tall.

Built at Pascagoula alongside Burke-class DDGs like all her sisters, Stratton joined the fleet in 2012.

Importantly, Ingalls is getting close to the end of the road with the class, as the future USCGC Calhoun (WMSL-759), NSC 10, just recently christened and is expected to commission later this year.

The final ship, USCGC Friedman (WMSL-760) would end the nominal 11 ship class although some Long Lead Time Materials funds for a 12th hull have been allocated. As the class was ordered to replace the 12-vessel Hamilton-class cutters built in the 1960s, it would only seem correct to run the full dozen. 

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.

And Pass the Ammunition

Original caption: “Seaman Barrett C. Benson who was a Methodist minister with two churches at Dalton and LaFayette, Georgia, saw the men of his churches going off to war…Deciding to follow them, he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Note his flat cap with Coast Guard band, the distinctive USCG shield on the sleeve of his winter jumper, classic 13-button trousers, 10-pocket M1910 belt with M1905 bayonet hanging from its side, and an M1903 rifle with stripper clip of .30-06 M2 ball at the ready. If you are curious, the photo even caught the rifle’s serial number (587211) which makes it a circa 1914 Springfield Armory-made weapon. (USCG Photo, NARA NAID: 205588663)

The former minister joined the Coast Guard as an apprentice seaman and went through the regular ‘boot’ training with thousands of other young men. He is shown carrying on his duties as an armed guard protecting fighting ships under construction at Manitowac, Wisconsin.

On Sundays, he has been helping out as a preacher in a Twin Rivers church, after answering a call to fill in for the regular minister who was unable to attend.

Coast Guardsman Benson said, “When the war is over, I hope to be back in the pulpit a better man for having had the adventure of trying to maintain my duty to both Church and State.”

While there is no date on the photo, the craft behind the good SN (Rev.) Benson is, judging from the number and the shape of the wheelhouse, likely the 38-foot “cabin cruiser” type picket boat CG 38387, or possibly CGR-387, a Coast Guard Reserve “Corsair Fleet” picket boat (formerly the 37-foot pleasure craft Contact, #22H158) taken into service in the 8th Coast Guard District in Feb 1942 and then disposed of in June 1946. As both vessels were active throughout WWII, that doesn’t narrow it down very much, but I’d lay odds on, judging from the uniform and equipment, the image was likely snapped in the winter months of 1942. 

Further, it doesn’t seem that Benson remained in the USCG for “the duration,” and he soon shipped off with the Navy as a chap since a 2013 obituary lists him as, “A retired United Methodist Church Minister and United States Navy Chaplain with the rank of Commander, serving on a ship in the Pacific Theatre during WWII, active duty during Korean conflict and the Vietnam era.”

As a side note, Manitowoc Shipbuilding built 36 LCT (5) landing ships and 28 Gato and Balao-class fleet submarines during the war, with 13 additional submarines canceled Post VJ Day.

Classic Maritime Imagery

If you don’t think this is beautiful, what are you even doing here?

Official caption: “The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750) sails under the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge while returning to Coast Guard Base Alameda, Calif., following a 77-day counter-narcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Dec. 3, 2022.”

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew West)

Bertholf, one of four new and advanced frigate-sized Ingalls-built 418-foot Legend-class national security cutters homeported in Alameda capable of extended, worldwide deployment, performed multiple boardings of suspected drug-smuggling vessels while patrolling international waters off the coasts of Central and South America while coordinated by JIATF-S, which led to the detainment of multiple suspected drug smugglers and the interdiction of more than 1,050 pounds of cocaine.

The largest interdiction during the patrol was a joint effort between the Bertholf and the El Salvadorian Coast Guard. The crews worked together to interdict a 60-foot low-profile vessel (LPV), aka “narco sub.” 

A U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750) boarding team approach a low-profile vessel after conducting law enforcement operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 18, 2022. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Oliver Fernander).

A crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750) inspect a low-profile vessel while conducting law enforcement operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 18, 2022. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Oliver Fernander).

While underway, for the first time in two years, Bertholf’s crew conducted a fueling at sea (FAS) off the coast of San Diego with the U.S. Navy. She also supported fast-roping qualifications for the Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team-West (MSRT-W) personnel, an elite counter-terrorism unit that does lots of cool guy stuff.

So, SIG let me film at the factory…

In Guns.com’s ongoing Select Fire series, I somehow talked SIG Sauer into letting us into its expansive and modern facility in Newington, New Hampshire.

While SIG Sauer had its origin in a 1976 team-up of Swiss-based SIG with West Germany’s J.P. Sauer & Sohn (which itself dates to 1751), by 1985 a U.S. spinoff, SIGARMS, was up and running in Tysons Corner, Virginia. After moving to New Hampshire in 1990, the latter company started domestic production here in America– turning blocks of steel and aluminum into firearms.

And they haven’t looked back, now making over 1 million guns per year in the “Live Free or Die” State.

Check out the video if you have 10 minutes to kill.

Five-Pack of 210s Still Getting it Done, with 250+ years on their hulls

We’ve talked a lot in the past on the humble yet dependable 210-foot Reliance-class gunboats/patrol craft (WPG/WPC) that, completed in the 1960s, still regularly hold the line for the Coast Guard as “medium endurance cutters” (WMEC).

Designed to replace the 125-foot Prohibition-era “Buck and a Quarters” and salve the looming block obsolescence of the remaining 255-foot Owasco-class and 311-foot Barnegat-class cutters (converted seaplane tenders) from World War II, the 210s hit the fleet with a large heli deck and a CODAG engineering suite, both new things at the time.

1973 Jane’s listing

While two of the 16 (Courageous and Durable) have been disposed of– albeit still operating with the Sri Lanka and Colombian Navies— the other 14 Reliance-class cutters will continue to serve until the (now delayed) 350-foot Offshore Patrol Cutter reaches the fleet sometime in the next several years.

No less than four of those 14 returned from lengthy patrol deployments this last week, while a fifth is still underway off the coast of South America:

The crew of the USCGC Vigilant (WMEC 617) returned to their homeport in Cape Canaveral, Saturday following a 48-day patrol in the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Straits.

An unseaworthy vessel floats at sea after its passengers were transferred to the USCGC Vigilant (WMEC 617), on Oct. 17, 2022. Vigilant completed a 48-day Florida Straits patrol in support of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District to detect, deter, and intercept unsafe and illegal maritime ventures bound for the United States. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)

In support of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District, Vigilant conducted search and rescue missions for Hurricane Ian off the Coast of Fort Lauderdale, and migrant interdiction operations in the South Florida Straits, working with multiple Coast Guard and joint interagency assets to detect, deter, and intercept unsafe and illegal maritime ventures bound for the United States.

During the patrol, Vigilant’s crew interdicted 11 overloaded and unseaworthy vessels carrying 146 Cuban nationals. In one case, Vigilant’s crew rescued 14 adults and one child who were at sea for six days without food and water. The migrants had been surviving on cooling water from the vessel’s engine. Vigilant’s crew provided critical first aid, food, and water.

In another case, Vigilant’s crew rescued 27 migrants from a sinking vessel during high winds and heavy seas. Overall, Vigilant’s crew cared for 833 Cuban migrants interdicted by various Coast Guard and other Homeland Security Task Force – Southeast law enforcement entities working within the Florida Straits.

The crew of the USCGC Dependable (WMEC 626) returned to their homeport in Virginia Beach, Saturday, following a 29-day patrol in the Florida Straits.

Coast Guard Cutter Dependable (USCG photo)

In support of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District, Dependable’s crew conducted migrant interdiction operations, collaborating with numerous Coast Guard assets and Department of Homeland Security boats and aircraft to detect, deter, and intercept unsafe and illegal ventures bound for the United States.

During the patrol, Dependable’s crew assisted with the interdiction of 193 migrants and cared for a total of 297 migrants that were interdicted by various Coast Guard and other law enforcement entities working within the Florida Straits.

The Coast Guard Cutter Active (WMEC 618) and crew returned to their homeport Friday after a 65-day patrol in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean near Central and South America.

Coast Guard Cutter Active (WMEC 618) crewmembers aboard the cutter’s 26-foot Small Boat pull alongside the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast (WMEC 623) to transfer parts and provisions while the cutters patrol the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Sept. 20, 2022. Active’s crew returned to their homeport Saturday after a 65-day patrol in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean near Central and South America. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Shane Sexton.

During this patrol, the Active’s crew rendezvoused with Coast Guard Cutters Steadfast (WMEC 623) and Bertholf (WMSL 750) to conduct joint operations. Active’s crew also partnered with maritime patrol aircrews from Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S) who aid in the detection of ships suspected of drug smuggling.
Crewmembers aboard Active transited more than 10,000 nautical miles from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the southern hemisphere during the patrol. The crew sighted an abundance of marine wildlife throughout the patrol and rescued sea turtles trapped in fishing gear.

The Active’s crew departed Port Angeles on September 1 and transited to San Diego for a logistics stop. While in San Diego, the crew completed unscheduled repairs, enabling the Active to continue its southbound journey along the coast of Mexico and Central America in pursuit of illegal drug smuggling vessels.

The crew of USCGC Reliance (WMEC 615) returned to their homeport in Pensacola Friday, following a 67-day Caribbean Sea patrol.

A response boat crew member steers toward the Coast Guard Cutter Reliance during a patrol in the Atlantic Ocean.

During the patrol, Reliance’s crew collaborated with numerous Coast Guard assets and other Department of Homeland Security boats and aircraft to detect, deter, and intercept unsafe and illegal ventures to the United States.

In support of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District, Reliance primarily patrolled the South Florida Straits, south of the Florida Keys, and the Windward passage, off the northwest coast of Haiti, contributing to the interdiction and care of 613 migrants and 13 detainees. Additionally, Reliance’s crew repatriated 120 migrants to Santiago, Cuba, marking the first visit by a U.S. warship to the port in more than 50 years.

A Peek At Curtis Bay

While the Navy still maintains four government-run public Naval Shipyards (Norfolk, Portsmouth, Puget Sound, and Pearl), an often forgotten gem in its smaller sister service, the Coast Guard, is the U.S. Coast Guard Yard. Located on just 22 acres of waterfront along Maryland’s Curtis Bay just south of the Baltimore city limits, the little yard that could is the Service’s sole shipbuilding and major repair facility, and has held that title since 1899. The USCGY, besides a longstanding tradition of performing overhauls and SLEPs on the service’s aging cutters (including assets going back to the 1940s), is the last American supporter of MK 75 76mm guns.

The yard just posted a great series of drone shots showcasing its operations.

The ship lift is full to expanded capacity thanks to the $26M Shiplift Expansion Project that added a third rail system. You even get a different perspective of the 87-foot Patrol Boats being crane-lifted!

Note the gray hulls to the left, likely 87-foot WPBs getting ready to be transferred to an overseas ally as aid. At least five other white hull WPBs are further up on the left corner. Two buoy tenders are to the left along with another 87 while the barque Eagle and a 270-foot cutter are in dry dock ashore with a 110-foot Island class WPB ahead of them

Check out the 87 foot Maritime Protector patrol boat (WPB) being lifted. The 87-foot Recurring Depot Availability Program (RDAP) project is a four-year recurring maintenance cycle for the Coast Guard’s entire Atlantic Area 87-foot coastal patrol boat fleet (47 vessels). Each cutter is at the Yard for a 66-day planned maintenance period. Crews arrive with a “used” 87-foot patrol boat and pick up a freshly overhauled patrol boat from the Yard, which they immediately sail back to their homeport.

America’s tall ship, USCGC Eagle, alongside a 270-foot Bear class cutter undergoing SLEP. Note that the 270’s hangar is extended

Eagle, the 270 and 110-foot Island-class WPB in the foreground

Another view of the Eagle and the 270

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