Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge will welcome back Coast Guard Patrol Forces Mediterranean in a ceremony at Nauticus in Norfolk on June 11 at 3 p.m.
The crews of the Coast Guard Cutter Dallas and four 110-ft. patrol boats, two Coast Guard law enforcement detachments, and 45 support and Port Security personnel will be greeted by Secretary Ridge, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thomas Collins, and Atlantic Area Commander Vice Adm. James Hull
Dallas, homeported in Charleston, S.C., deployed Feb. 8 to work with the Navy
’s 6th Fleet in the Strait of Gibraltar. In the months leading up to the war with Iraq, the 378-foot high-endurance cutter helped protect U.S. shipping there from terrorist threats. Before the war Dallas moved farther east, and during the first three days of military operations in Iraq was the only surface ship protecting two aircraft carriers north of the Suez Canal. Dallas stood ready to rescue any downed aviators, and the cutter’s aircraft warning lights helped fliers home in on Roosevelt’s bobbing flight deck.
The four returning patrol boats – the Pea Island and Knight Island, from St. Petersburg, Fla., the Bainbridge Island from Sandy Hook, N.J., and the Grand Isle, from Gloucester, Mass. – were among 11 cutters sent overseas to support military operations in the region.
“They responded quickly to their mission,” said Capt. Dale Little, Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations for the Navy’s 6th Fleet. “While in the Mediterranean they demonstrated great flexibility with several different missions, including harbor security in ports used by American military forces. The patrol boats proved to be an excellent addition to the Sixth Fleet team during Operation Iraqi Freedom
Other Coast Guard forces remain in the Persian Gulf region. Four 110-foot patrol boats have been patrolling the Khawr ‘abd Allah waterway, southern Iraq’s main lifeline for humanitarian aid. The patrol boats and parts of three Port Security Units comprised mostly of reservists have been assigned to protect oil platforms and other critical installations. And Coast Guard boarding officers have been checking wrecked ships along the KAA waterway – including wrecks where they found drawings of American warships – to make sure the hulks can’t be used as observation posts or as platforms for attacks.
Vice Adm. James Hull, the Atlantic Area Coast Guard Commander, said he’s proud of what his deployed forces accomplished. “Their involvement in force protection, escort duties and maritime interception provided the Sixth Fleet with maximum operational flexibility and highlighted the Coast Guard’s role as an armed service,” he said. “We are all very proud of them. When called, called, they were ready, and they performed. They were a small part of a big effort.”