Written by Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir
The Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry (WPC 1124) was commissioned in Honolulu Tuesday. Vice Adm. Fred M. Midgette, Coast Guard Pacific Area commander, presided. Susan Hansen and her son Patrick, distant cousins of Oliver Berry and the cutter’s sponsor were also in attendance.
Oliver Berry is the first of three operational 154-foot fast response cutters stationed in Hawaii. The cutters are designed to patrol coastal regions and feature advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment, including the ability to launch and recover standardized small boats from the stern. The Oliver Berry is the first of three Honolulu-based FRCs that will largely serve the main Hawaiian Islands, but with the reach to conduct operations throughout the South Pacific region.
“It’s a great opportunity to honor Chief Petty Officer Oliver Berry‘s legacy by commissioning this new cutter and engaging in the wide variety of Coast Guard missions of search and rescue, fisheries law enforcement, marine safety and security, among many others conducted in and around the Hawaiian Islands,” said Lt. Ken Franklin, commanding officer of Oliver Berry. “I am constantly impressed as I learn more about Oliver Berry through this commissioning process such as his resourcefulness and leadership in developing the specialty of aviation maintenance. The cutter helps cement the strong bond between our aviation and afloat communities and it’s a privilege to be a part of her plankowner crew and carry Oliver Berry’s legacy forward into the 21st century.”
Each class of Coast Guard ships is named for something or someone. The 110-foot cutters are the Island class and bear the names of island throughout the nation. The fast response cutters are the Sentinel class and are named for Coast Guard enlisted heroes. This cutter is named for Chief Petty Officer Oliver Fuller Berry, a South Carolina native and graduate of the Citadel. A highly skilled mechanic, he was a pioneer in the field of helicopter maintenance working on early Coast Guard aircraft. Berry is considered one of the world’s first experts on the maintenance of helicopters, serving as lead instructor at the first military helicopter training unit, the Rotary Wing Development Unit established at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, in 1946. He also helped develop the helicopter rescue hoist. These early helicopters were the result of a collaboration by Lt. Frank Erickson and Igor Sikorsky spurred by Erickson’s witness of the tragedy at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 2, 1941.
Berry had an extensive career spanning much of the globe. He was notably involved in a helicopter rescue out of Newfoundland that earned him a Coast Guard commendation and the Belgian Silver Medal of the Order of Leopold II. In this case, Berry was able to quickly disassemble a helicopter in Brooklyn, New York, which was then flown to Gander, Newfoundland, in a cargo plane where he reassembled it in time to find and rescue 18 survivors of a crash aboard a Belgian Sabena DC-4 commercial airliner.
The Coast Guard is acquiring 58 FRCs to replace the 110-foot Island-class patrol boats. The FRCs are designed for missions including search and rescue; fisheries enforcement; drug and migrant interdiction; ports, waterways and coastal security; and national defense. The Coast Guard took delivery of Oliver Berry, June 27, 2017, in Key West, Florida. The crew then transited more than 8,400 miles (7,300 nautical miles) to Hawaii arriving Sept. 22.
Ultimately there will be three fast response cutters stationed at Base Honolulu by the spring of 2019. These cutters with their improved effectiveness in search and rescue will make the waters around the main Hawaiian Islands a much safer place for recreational boaters and users of the waterway. They greatly improve our on water presence with each providing over 7,500 operational hours, a 40 percent increase over the existing 110-foot patrol boats.