After nearly 45 years of service to the nation, Coast Guard Cutter Dallas has been decommissioned. We’ve shared with you stories from their last patrol, tales from the chief’s mess and even a note from the cutter’s last commanding officer. Dallas has seen thousands of men and women aboard its decks, so it seems no finer way to end our coverage of Dallas’ legacy than by sharing one last story from a Dallas sailor.
Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Karl Niedermeyer, Coast Guard Cutter Adak and prior Coast Guard Cutter Dallas crewmember.
As I read the articles about Coast Guard Cutter Dallas’ decommissioning, I can’t help but feel a little bit of sadness in my heart. I remember choosing Dallas as I prepared for graduation from Boatswain’s Mate “A” School, having never even seen a 378-foot cutter before and only knowing a hand full of people who had ever even been on one. I remember feeling very excited when I first came aboard in Guantanamo Bay, as if I could take on the whole world. I was eager to learn and wanted to be the best petty officer 3rd class on board. Even tailored annual cutter training wasn’t that bad! Eventually though, as with nearly everything, the novelty began to wear off as my learning curve became steeper than I had imagined, a matter that was only made worse by a chief petty officer who held me to a very high standard and pushed me hard to live up to that standard.
In my closing months aboard Dallas I continued to work hard, but was ready to leave and never wanted to sail another big boat again. I remember saying good bye to everyone and then watched her pull away from Pier Papa to go out on patrol as I went to pre-deployment training. I drove over to Sullivan’s Island, S.C., and stood on the beach watching her sail away as I waived good bye with a cold beer in my hand. I was happy to leave to do other things, but I was also sad to be leaving so many friends and shipmates behind. I thought mostly of the ports that I would miss, the drug busts that I would never see, the qualifications that I had yet attained.
Flashback-like memories raced through my head giving me the vision of walking out of the athwart ships passageway door on the main deck just after securing from the special sea detail on the first day underway and looking forward to see the bow slowly rising and falling with the swells; or picking up bales of cocaine, running on turbines through 15-foot seas for 36 hours; wearing firefighting equipment getting my butt kicked by the damage control chief petty offficer and boatswain’s mate chief petty officer; seeing Capt. Finch relaxing in his chair on the port bridge wing just at 7 a.m. on his final patrol; and many other fond memories.
I don’t think that I will ever forget the day that I received my orders to depart Dallas and report to Aquidneck, I was grinning from ear to ear! I was in the aviation shop doing equipment inspections with Seaman Miholics when I opened my email to see a message from “DO NOT REPLY…”
My jaw dropped. I opened the email and the attachment to see the orders. “Now, set flight quarters condition one….” was piped over the ship’s communication system and as people poured into the equipment room to get their gear I continued to go on and tell every soul who walked through that door that “I’m outta here!”
The executive officer came through the door and asked, “What’s all the noise?” “I got orders to the Aquidneck in Bahrain! I’m outta here!”
The executive officer said with her dry sense of humor, “I’m going to have to work on my recommendations,” and left.
She was kidding of course as her recommendation was positive and having come from being executive officer of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia she supported my desire to go there.
I realized what had happened around me during my year and a half aboard Dallas. I started to grow an understanding of things. Chief Petty Officer Green continually selected me for positions of greater responsibility. Just over a year after leaving Dallas I heard that she was on a four-month trip to the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea and Red Sea and I began to acknowledge my first feelings of regret for leaving her.
I think about what other people must have experienced on her: the Vietnam patrols, the Mediterranean patrol in 2003, the responses to mass exodus’ from Cuba and Haiti, the recovery of Challenger, the trips to Europe and other parts of the globe that I have never heard stories about. We all gave Dallas our sweat and blood, but it is that sweat and blood that made her one of the most noteworthy hulls of the Hamilton class. She held together through thick and thin because of her crews. As her decommissioning as a U.S. Coast Guard cutter is here, I am sad to see the cutter go.
But I know that even as part of the Philippine Navy, the Dallas will continue to carry on her legacy of Semper Nostra Optima: Always Our Best.