The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sweetgum will be decommissioned after nearly 60 years of service in a ceremony scheduled Wednesday, September 19, at 2:00 p.m. at Coast Guard Group Mobile in Mobile, Ala.
The Sweetgum was commissioned into the Coast Guard November 20, 1943, and was briefly homeported in Grand Haven, Mich. The Sweetgum moved to Mayport, Fla., September 1, 1946 where it proudly served for years 44 years. While stationed in Mayport, the Sweetgum was responsible for maintaining 333 buoys and structures from Kings Bay, Ga., to the Bahamas. In the winter of 1977, the Sweetgum was ordered north to open up shipping routes, free frozen-in-ships, and help clean up a 400,000 gallon oil spill in New York’s Hudson River
In 1986, the Sweetgum was temporarily decommissioned on February 2, 1990, to enter the Coast Guard’s Service Life Extension Program for aging buoy tenders. It was then thoroughly renovated at the USCG Yard in Curtis Bay, Md. The ship arrived at its new homeport of Mobile on December 1, 1991, and was formerly commissioned on January 10, 1992. In addition to maintaining 120 aids to navigation, the Sweetgum assisted in the Sunset Limited Amtrak bridge accident recovery in 1994, and provided disaster relief in the aftermath of Hurricanes Opal in 1995, Danny in 1997, Earl and Georges in 1998, and Bret in 1999. The Sweetgum’s priority is search and rescue. Its primary mission, however, is maintaining aids to navigation. Its main operating area stretches along 340 miles of the Gulf Coast, from Apalachicola, Fla. to the Mississippi River system. However, since the July 1999 decommissioning of its sister ship in Galveston, Texas, the Sweetgum’s responsibility expanded to include buoys off Galveston and Port Isabel, Texas. The Sweetgum’s operating area includes two of the nation’s busiest ports, Mobile and New Orleans. It also aids mariners in distress, supports military operations, conducts law enforcement and homeland security patrols, responds to natural and man-made disasters and educates the public.