Farewell to Dallas – A word from the commanding officer

After nearly 45 years of service to the nation, Coast Guard Cutter Dallas is being decommissioned. From performing naval gunfire support missions off Vietnam to being the command ship during the 1980 Mariel Boatlift, Dallas has truly seen it all. As Dallas is decommissioned, a new fleet of national security cutters are coming on the line to protect and serve our nation. They stand at the ready to perform homeland security missions at sea, just as Dallas did for decades.

We continue our series honoring Dallas, with a farewell from the ship’s commanding officer.

Capt. Jim Munro, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Dallas, looks out at a calm sea under a full moon from the ship's bridge wing Feb. 7, 2012.  Munro will be the final commanding officer of Dallas as the ship is scheduled to be decommissioned in March.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Capt. Jim Munro, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Dallas, looks out at a calm sea under a full moon from the ship’s bridge wing Feb. 7, 2012. Munro will be the final commanding officer of Dallas as the ship is scheduled to be decommissioned in March. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Written by Capt. Jim Munro, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Dallas.

Endings usually stir a little melancholy. I am not talking about the end of a long deployment – which is normally reason for some celebration – but something a bit more weighty: the last patrol for a Coast Guard ship in a nearly 45-year-long career. Such is the case aboard Dallas as we sail homeward bound for the last time as a Coast Guard cutter.

Through most of this more than 90-day patrol we have focused on simply getting underway and staying underway; a greater feat than one may think. After four decades of service, Dallas’ equipment failures have impacted our ability to perform missions on a daily basis and throughout this patrol the crew has worked through some amazing challenges.

The Coast Guard Cutter Dallas sails in calm seas as the sun sets Feb. 7, 2012.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

The Coast Guard Cutter Dallas sails in calm seas as the sun sets Feb. 7, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

During months of preparation, a hole was cut in Dallas’ hull and a main diesel engine block was replaced. The crew then worked to pull together systems that were dormant during a long in-port period and breathed life back into them. They fought through a flurry of last-minute equipment casualties and the material challenges of an old ship were felt immediately as we experienced problems with the reduction gear lubrication systems.

After diverting to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for repairs, we were back underway. A long stint of operations followed, 30 days worth, and it felt good to get that under our belt, especially as two go-fast interdictions occurred in that intense period.

In the first half of Dallas’ final patrol there was not too much talk of “endings.” We were simply too busy. But as we neared the end of our patrol, endings began coming back up as a topic of conversation. “Lasts” were first on folks’ minds again: the last time in “GTMO,” the last time Dallas will be seen in a foreign port call, the last time a Coast Guard helicopter would land on our flight deck.

For me, it started with our fourth stop in Cuba, which brought back memories of when I first saw Coast Guard Cutter Dallas. Prior to taking over as Dallas’ last commanding officer I had last seen her moored in Guantanamo Bay around Thanksgiving of 1991. I was aboard one of three 110-foot patrol boats dispatched from Puerto Rico to assist in the latest round of Haitian mass-migration. As we rounded Corinaso Point, I will never forget the sight. A Navy “gator” boat appeared overrun by migrants. It looked like a large Haitian village with a grey background, people everywhere and laundry hanging all over. Certainly the most colorful Navy ship I had ever seen.

There were other vessels there – Navy and Coast Guard – all covered with Haitian migrants. Dallas was moored there, too. At that time Capt. Robert C. Olsen, a former commanding officer of mine, was skipper of Dallas and serving as commander of the task unit, coordinating rescue operations during this crisis – something the ship was called upon to do repeatedly in its history. That scene of managed chaos in Guantanamo Bay, migrants everywhere, uniformed folks mixed in randomly and news crews scattered over the docks, comes to mind nearly every time I have pulled into GTMO since.

The Coast Guard Cutter Dallas sails at dusk Feb. 14, 2012.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

The Coast Guard Cutter Dallas sails at dusk Feb. 14, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

However, I can never dwell too long on “lasts” without considering what is coming next. Dallas’ commissioning pennant will be lowered and retired. But it is when the crews go – without that previous stream of earnest replacements – that is when the ship truly fades away.

Endings also mark beginnings of course. Dallas’ current crew moves on to its next place of duty as does the ship. I wonder as I sit writing this on the starboard bridge wing chair – my favorite place on the cutter – who will be sitting here next. Where will they be? I am watching the horizon as Dallas sails through the Caribbean the last time as a Coast Guard cutter, wondering if she will be fighting pirates in the Malaccan Strait – the boy in me hopes so – with other regional nations, or establishing a sovereign strategic presence in foreign waters. Wherever she is, Dallas, under another flag, will still have a purposeful duty at sea.

Despite Dallas’ last patrol with the U.S. Coast Guard, our service’s missions will still be carried out. Dallas, and the 11 other original high endurance cutters, are being replaced by national security cutters. Faster, better equipped and more efficient than their predecessors, the crews aboard the new national security cutters will honor Dallas’ tradition of protecting American interests, today and for decades to come.

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16 Responses

  1. Quintin J Hammonds says:

    So long Dallas, it was a great final run

  2. Mike Ackerman ET2 1968 - 1972 says:

    I was in the Guard when Dallas was commissioned.  It seeme like yesterday!  Good luck and Godspeed to all.

  3. John Kilgore says:

    “From sea to shining sea” Legacy of the USCGC DALLAS WHEC 716.

  4. John Kilgore says:

    “From sea to shining sea” USCGC DALLAS WHEC 716 – LEGACY

  5. Bob Wilson says:

    I had more than a few cups of coffee and outstanding apple pie on board when she was in Miami around 1978. Am I right in remembering they stuck a gold marijuana leaf on the stack every time they made a bust? I’m not sure if that was the Dallas or the Hamilton, but I seem to remember the stack was covered in decals! Bob Wilson, Damage Controlman, Governor’s Island; Adak, New Orleans 1975-1979

  6. John B.Bricker says:

    I served on the Dallas right out of boot camp in June 1970 when she just returned from a year in viet nam.It was a real pleasure to be on such a ship that had served well in the war. She was assigned to Gov Island NY at that time we did ocean stations and a yard period and then to gitmo i was transfered from the Dallas in nov 1972 but always felt i was a part of the Dallas it saddens me to see her being decomed but we all grow old and have to move on Good luck to her and the sailors from what ever country gets her she will serve u well Fairwell to the USCGC Dallas WHEC 716

  7. Ron McCary RD2 1970-1974 says:

    Walked by the Dallas many a day as an RDA student on Governors Island in 1970, 3 years after her commissioning.

  8. Carlos Johnson says:

    I was RMIC on the Fid (Steadfast) in 1991 during the great 1991 Haitian Exodus. We interdicted the S/V Marco, the first following the coup – and the first of many in coming months.

    We were OTC/CTU with a few PBs, an SES, and a couple of WMECs in our TU for a time. We had the traffic guard for an SES and a patrol boat or two. We cranked TTY traffic on UHF TGO with the WMECs; point to point traffic with NMN, NMA, and NMG; copied the FRTT broadcast; and worked multiple voice circuits in radio. We were so busy we nearly went to port/starboard two-man radio watches.

    When the more adequately-equipped Dallas got on scene, she took over as OTC/CTU, and the Fid got a breather. We still worked like dogs, but at a much more reasonable pace. My hats off to the November/December 1991 crew of the Dallas, particularly the Radio crew.

  9. Mike Sykes says:

    I served on board Dallas during the Vietnam trip. I can’t believe she’s going to be decommissioned -she’s so young! I have great memories of my time on board Dallas. I hope to see lots of the old crew in Charleston on 30 March for the reunion and decommissioning.

  10. Pete Murnane says:

    I served on board Dallas as part of the original commissioning crew way back in 1967, and God willing, I’ll be there in Charleston for her decommissioning this March. The cycle will be complete.

  11. Gene Bono 73-77 says:

    Many good memories and some bad.Present for the Gold “E” in engineering,Gate,Queen’s Escort,Ice Patrol(C-130 was OOC),wrecking of two HH-52s,when a wave went through the bridge and laid her on her side,buzzed by a Mig,loss of a surf boat in a storm and other memories

  12. Selwyn Clyde M. Alojipan says:

    As the USCGS Dallas retires from US service, it will be welcomed as the newest ship of the Philippine Navy, along with its sister ship, the former USCGS Hamilton. Hopefully, a third, and perhaps a fourth ship of this WHEC class will also enter Philippine Naval service in the future. If the worst event comes and these ships are forced to fend off Chinese PLAN ship encroachments into Philippine waters in the next few decades, I am sure they will give a good account of themselves under their Filipino crews.

  13. Gil Stafford USCG (Retired) says:

    I had the distinct honor of being the Chief Radioman aboard Dallas during the Mariel Boat Lift of 1980. Such a long time ago, but yet memories are still fresh of that operation. I Retired from active service Sept 1, 1981 at the age of 39 while still assigned to Dallas, Greetings to all your Guardians and Thank You for your service.
    Gil Stafford Seagrove , N.C.

  14. Leonard Wallace says:

    I retired as a SSC in Feb 1990, but one of my most memorial experience was in Jan 1970 when I was helo-opped aboard the USCGC Dallas. We were off the coast of SONG ONG DOC South Vietnam engaged in gunfire support condition two. Although we engaged in many other similar missions, we were also able to go on shore and help many of the villagers thru medcap support, of which I was able to take part. When we finally sailed back to Governors Island NY, I had grown very close to many of the crew members whom I will never forget. I will also never forget the Cutter Dallas and how it made such a lasting impression on my life.
    Semper Paratus ; Beep Beep

  15. Gil Stafford says:

    I was stationed aboard Dallas from August 1979-Sep1981 as RMC. I suppose
    I can say my most memorable time aboard her was the “Mariel Cuba” Boat Lift,
    of 1980. Admiral Stabile the 7th district commander at that time has written
    a very informative piece about that period. Try Google” Mariel Boat Lift. I
    am sure you will find it.. RMC Gil Stafford USCG (Retired).

  16. Gil Stafford says:

    For all the folks who served on Dallas, after me…Thank You For Your Service.