Written by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft .
It was 118 years ago this week when three Coast Guardsmen embarked upon a 1,500-mile journey, dubbed The Overland Relief Expedition, to save 265 whalers stranded in the Arctic. 1st Lt. David Jarvis, 2nd Lt. Ellsworth Bertholf – our first Commandant – and Dr. Samuel Call left their ship and would not return for three months. Conducting their mission through the holidays, over the New Year and well into the spring, altogether the team spent nine months and 16 days away from their families.
Jarvis and his team completed the now infamous expedition after enduring a series of setbacks. On Christmas Eve, Jarvis had his doubts about continuing on and considered remaining at their makeshift camp writing, “… the temptation to remain over Christmas was great.” He followed this doubt with a simple yet powerful thought: “… but our mission would not permit any unnecessary delay.” More than a century ago, Jarvis and his team exemplified Service to Nation.
You carry out this very same Devotion to Duty in today’s Coast Guard. From buoy deck to hangar deck, from boathouse to warehouse, you execute the mission without hesitation.
A host of Coast Guard men and women will stand the watch this holiday season. Like Jarvis and Bertholf more than 100 years ago, Coast Guard Cutter Mellon will sail to the far north. At the opposite end of the earth, the Nation’s lone heavy icebreaker, Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, will deploy to McMurdo, Antarctica, supporting U.S. strategic objectives and international treaty obligations.
Around our Nation’s waters – offshore, inland and coastal – our marine safety professionals will ensure commerce flows through our Maritime Transportation System. Active duty, reserve, civilian and retired alike will meet the demands of an increasingly complex maritime environment.
In the Caribbean, Coast Guard Cutter Tampa and an embarked Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron detachment are supporting counter-drug operations through the holiday season, concluding a year of counter-drug operations that netted more than 200 metric tons of cocaine and 700 arrests by Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security and partner assets.
These deployed crews are capable of conducting operations because they are directly supported by a team of specialists. Intelligence specialists enable intelligence-driven operations. Operations specialists facilitate tactical command and control. Logisticians, storekeepers and maintenance specialists will deliver real-time support for our people and assets. And this will happen globally.
Over Thanksgiving, Fran and I joined our deployed Coast Guard men and women in Saudi Arabia, Patrol Forces Southwest Asia and those serving with the Royal Navy. Far from home, they are bringing unique Coast Guard mission skills and authorities to our international partners around the globe. In a few short weeks, the Coast Guard will once again stand the watch on all seven continents, and we could not be more proud.
For those who can join friends, family and loved ones over the holiday season, Fran and I encourage you to make the most of every moment as we honor those who are on watch tonight, and every night, protecting the freedoms we so enjoy.
With our best wishes for a joyous holiday season and a Happy New Year,
Admiral Paul Zukunft and Mrs. Fran DeNinno-Zukunft