Currently, the 1960s-era 210-foot and the 1980s-era 270-foot medium endurance cutters are the link between the Coast Guard’s national security cutters and fast response cutters. However, this link is under untenable strain, characterized by decreasing readiness and skyrocketing maintenance costs.
The name “Coast Guard” can be a little deceiving. Many people don’t realize Coast Guardsmen are deployed around the world conducting a variety of military, law enforcement, regulatory and humanitarian missions. One of its most significant expeditionary missions is counter narcotics in the Western Hemisphere; more specifically, stopping drug smugglers in the “drug transit zones” of the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin.
“Together with my shipmates, we’re beginning the most important milestones in the life of a cutter,” said Capt. Doug Fears, Hamilton’s commanding officer and the most senior member of the crew. “The Cutter Hamilton is now officially in active service to execute the most challenging maritime security, law enforcement, and national defense missions.”
Being the spouse of an ‘ancient mariner’ provides a unique perspective into the world of Coast Guard cutters and life at sea. However, Linda Kapral Papp, wife of retired Adm. Bob Papp, is getting a different view of the cutter fleet through her new role: sponsor of the Coast Guard’s fourth National Security Cutter, Hamilton.
“Our crew used their unique capabilities and authorities as a military service, law enforcement agency, and member of the U.S. intelligence community to disrupt transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific and keep drugs from making it to the U.S.,” said Capt. Edward A. Westfall, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell. “These illegal drug networks are dangerous breeding grounds for all types of trafficking and their immense profits fuel violence and instability.”
The U.S. Coast Guard Western Hemisphere Strategy is built around three priorities, combating networks, securing borders and safeguarding commerce. To meet these priorities, the strategy emphasizes the critical importance of offshore vessel and aircraft presence to support effective governance and sovereignty, as well as other concepts to ensure long-term success. That long-term vision relies heavily upon the ongoing acqusition of national security cutters and fast response cutters and future acquisition of offshore patrol cutters by the service but also requires us to lean heavily on an aging medium endurance cutter fleet made up of 210-foot and 270-foot cutters, some of which have been operational for as many as 45 years.
In October, Hamilton was christened by it’s sponsor, Linda Kapral Papp, wife of retired Adm. Bob Papp. In the months since, the cutter has been put through a series of tests culminating in sea trials to determine the readiness of the vessel to support Coast Guard missions. Yesterday, the Coast Guard formally accepted delivery of Hamilton at a ceremony in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
“Joshua James exhibited a commitment to excellence that permeates the Coast Guard to this day,” said Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger. “He embodied the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty and the guiding principles articulated in our new Commandant’s Direction long before we ever wrote them down.”
Waesche’s participation in RIMPAC 2014 will highlight the Coast Guard’s unique capabilities and partnerships with Department of Defense entities and international partners along the Pacific Rim. It will also serve as a unique, large-scale training opportunity that will provide realistic training in support of a wide range of Coast Guard missions, including search and rescue, maritime interdiction, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and national defense missions.
During a ceremony this weekend, Alexander Hamilton, the service’s fourth national security cutter, was christened. This christening marks a significant step in the Hamilton becoming an official Coast Guard cutter.