Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Evanson, 7th Coast Guard District public affairs.
From an apartment to a shelter, a house to a condo, a “home” can mean a lot of things. For the 650 Coast Guard members and their families living in the Clearwater, Fla., area, home means community.
Clearwater boasts an impressive community of lifesavers. The city is home to the Coast Guard’s largest and busiest air station, the fourth largest multi-mission small-boat station in the 7th Coast Guard District and a port security unit.
Following a joint-proclamation between Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp and Clearwater Mayor Frank V. Hibbard, Clearwater became one of 14 cities in the United States to officially be designated a Coast Guard City, and the only city in Florida to hold the title.
“We are trying to pay a small portion of the debt that we owe to you,” said Hibbard, addressing more than 200 Coast Guard members in attendance. “We need to stop and pause and recognize the sacrifice you make.”
Clearwater is home to Air Station Clearwater, the largest air station in the Coast Guard. The air crews support a variety of missions with both fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft. In addition to operating locally, their area of operations includes the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean basin and the Bahamas.
Down the road is Coast Guard Station Sand Key, a 60-person unit with a 2,000 square-mile area of responsibility in the Gulf of Mexico. The boat crews at the station work non-stop, and perform approximately 300 search and rescue cases per year.
Port Security Unit 307, a Reserve unit also based in Clearwater, just returned home from a six-month deployment to the Middle East in support of Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom. During their deployment, PSU 307 provided seaward security at strategic port locations around the Persian Gulf ensuring the free flow of personnel, equipment and commerce in the region.
Enacted by law in 1998, the Coast Guard City program recognizes communities nationwide that go above and beyond in their support of Coast Guard members and their families. Other cities to receive this designation include Grand Haven, Mich., Eureka, Calif., and Rockland, Maine.
“I am so absolutely delighted to see Clearwater named a Coast Guard City,” said Papp. “Clearwater has a real sense of community. It is not just the climate that is warm, it is the citizens.”
In a response organization that is locally based, nationally deployed and globally connected, Clearwater is indeed a home away from home.
“When our men and women return to Clearwater, it’s not just a welcome home, but a welcome home to a Coast Guard City,” said Papp.