The U.S. Coast Guard lived up to its motto of being “Always Ready” in 2011 – from interdicting the first drug sub in Caribbean waters to providing humanitarian relief to a drought-stricken island nation, Coast Guard crews had a remarkable year. As 2011 winds down, Compass brings to you “Your Coast Guard in 2011” – a series highlighting the top stories, missions and cases from around the nation. Continue to visit us into next week to read about the remaining districts and the extraordinary men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Today we arrive at the Pacific Islands and hear about the 14th Coast Guard District’s exciting and noteworthy search and rescue cases of 2011.
Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony L. Soto.
The wide breadth of missions in the 14th Coast Guard District was evident in 2011 as Coast Guard men and women carried out operations in the service’s largest area of responsibility – 12.2 million square miles to be precise.
Although Hawaii is the hub of the Coast Guard in the Pacific, operations take the Coast Guard across the Pacific to answer the call for help, enforce laws and protect our natural resources.
Notably, the Coast Guard was involved in the five-day search and successful rescue of 15 mariners marooned on a deserted Pacific island. In another instance Coast Guard crews, along with the Philippine coast guard, conducted a massive multi-day search for five people aboard a damaged catamaran that was successfully located.
One of the most compelling cases this year occurred in October, when a twin-engine Cessna airplane ran out of fuel during a trip from California to the Big Island of Hawaii. The pilot nearly reached Hawaii but ditched just 13 miles off the coast. Coast Guardsmen from Air Station Barbers Point assisted the pilot as he ditched his plane, giving him directions on how to perform an emergency water landing. A Coast Guard aircrew guided the pilot while a second aircrew positioned their aircraft close to where the airplane crashed into the sea. The pilot immediately climbed out of the plane and crawled onto the wing. Amazingly, the pilot did not sustain major injuries and he was safely hoisted by a Coast Guard rescue helicopter.
Another notable case involved Coast Guard Cutter Galveston Island assisting an Oregon family whose sailboat sank between
California and Hawaii. They were rescued by a Chinese vessel registered to the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System – a global network of ships that rescues those who are in distress at sea.
To protect the region’s natural resources, Coast Guard Cutter Rush’s crew conducted a regional patrol to help secure protected fishing grounds, belonging to both the U.S. and our neighbors throughout the Pacific. These efforts protect highly migrating fish species as well as fish stocked relied upon by subsistence fishers in the region.
Assisting local communities in the Pacific has also been a major commitment. The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Walnut delivered 36,000 gallons of drinking water to the drought-stricken island nation of Tokelau. The U.S. Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand, contacted Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu in October to coordinate the transport of an assessment team and drinking water to Tokelau.
The above events are just a few examples of the Coast Guard’s wide range of missions in the 14th District. If 2011 is any indicator of what is to come, there will be a variety of unique missions and situations in 2012. Knowing this, crews continue to train and stand the watch true to the Coast Guard motto of Semper Paratus – Always Ready.