The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tornado returned to their homeport in Pascagoula, Miss., Sunday after completing their first patrol since the ship was commissioned in December.
The cutter and its crew departed for the Florida Straits Feb. 2, patrolling between the Florida Keys and Cuba in support of counter-drug and alien migration interdiction operations.
The crew put months of training to good use as they safely prevented nearly 100 migrants and several suspected smugglers from illegally entering the United States. The crew also worked closely with the Royal Bahamian Defense Force in and around the Bahamas in a joint effort to interdict migrant and drug smugglers.
The most notable case was near the end of the patrol when the crew of the Tornado rescued 22 Cuban migrants who had been stranded on a small island waiting to be picked up. A team from the Tornado arrived on scene late at night and delivered food and water to the migrants, who were safely transferred to the cutter at dawn.
Cutter Tornado, a 179-foot Cyclone-class coastal patrol boat originally designed for U.S. Navy special warfare operations, combines the speed and agility of Coast Guard 110-foot patrol boats with greater fuel endurance and a greater crew capacity. The ship has proved itself a flexible platform, ideally suited for Coast Guard law enforcement operations
. Its stern-launching smallboat allows Tornado to safely perform smallboat operations in choppy sea conditions.
The Tornado's crew of two officers and 25 enlisted crewmembers began their training to receive the ship from the Navy in August 2004. After transfer of the ship to the Coast Guard in October, the crew worked dilligently to make needed repairs, apply Coast Guard markings and complete additional training to become operational. Just prior to departing for patrol, Tornado's crew transited up the Mississippi River to New Orleans for a final testing and training cruise.