Coast Guard commissions Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser salutes as they bring the ship to life during the commissioning ceremony of the Coast Guard's newest fast response cutter at Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico March 11, 2016. The Winslow Griesser is the Coast Guard's 16th fast response cutter and the fourth of its kind to be homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ricardo Castrodad)

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser salutes as they bring the ship to life during the commissioning ceremony (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ricardo Castrodad)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard commissioned its newest fast response cutter, the Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser, into service during a ceremony at U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico, Friday.

The Winslow Griesser is the 16th Fast Response Cutter to be commissioned in the Coast Guard and the fourth to be homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“It is a true privilege to welcome the Winslow Griesser to the fleet as we celebrate the heroic actions and bravery of its namesake, one of the Coast Guard’s finest who saved a man from the perils of the sea during a gale-force-wind storm off Buffalo, New York,” said Rear Adm. Scott Buschman, commander of the  Coast Guard 7th District.  “This state of the art patrol boat and its crew will provide greater security and stability to the Caribbean region and our nation.”

“The crew and I are honored to have been selected as plankowners of Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser,” Lt. Joseph A. Haynsworth, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser. “Captain Griesser, our cutter’s namesake, was a truly exceptional public servant and lifesaver.  We look forward to continuing his proud tradition as we carry out the Coast Guard’s missions throughout the eastern Caribbean.”

“I am extremely pleased and proud to have been selected as the sponsor of the Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser, named in honor of my great grandfather, said Paula Griesser Fairfield. “I know that I speak for every member of great grandpa Winslow Griesser’s family when I say we are all overwhelmingly proud, honored and grateful.  This amazing ship stands in testament to the great man that was Winslow Griesser and his dedication to service with the United States Coast Guard.”

The Sentinel Class Fast Response Cutters (FRC’s) are designed to conduct maritime drug interdiction, alien migrant interdiction, search and rescue, national defense, homeland security, living marine resource protection and other Coast Guard missions. This class of patrol boat is capable of deploying independently to execute Coast Guard missions and prevent potential threats from approaching our shores and offers vastly improved capabilities over the aging 110-foot Island-class patrol boats it replaces.

The FRC is part of the Coast Guard’s layered approach to maritime security that includes the National Security Cutter.  The FRC’s are 154-feet long with a beam of 25-feet and a maximum sustained speed of 28 knots.  The Winslow Griesser is armed with a stabilized 25mm machine-gun mount and four-crew operated .50-caliber machine guns.

Each FRC is named for a Coast Guard enlisted hero who distinguished him or herself in the line of duty. This vessel is named after the Coast Guard hero Capt. Winslow Griesser, who served as a member of the U.S. Life-Saving Service during the late 1800s and early 1900s at four lifesaving stations on the Great Lakes, including as keeper of three of the stations.

On Nov. 21, 1900, Capt. Winslow Griesser was the keeper of the Buffalo, NY station when a storm with more than 80 mile per hour gale-force winds swept two large scows – a type of flat-bottomed boat – from their moorings in the Buffalo harbor.  Griesser launched a lifeboat to check whether anyone was aboard the scows or needed assistance; heavy waves soon overturned the lifeboat, forcing Griesser and all but one of his crew to swim a quarter mile to shore.  Griesser then learned that a man from one of the scows was stranded, clinging to piles as the waves broke over him.  A train was passing through at the time, and the engineer offered to take Griesser and his crew a third of a mile to where the piles were only 400 to 500 feet from shore.

The use of a boat was impracticable, so Griesser decided to swim a rescue line out to the man, accompanied by one of his crewmembers.  On the first attempt, a wave threw both Griesser and his crewmember back onto shore.  On the second attempt, his crewmember was injured and swept to shore.  Griesser was able to keep swimming and eventually came close enough to throw the stranded man the rescue line.  However, the man had only time and strength to secure the line to this wrist before the waves caught him and entangled the line on the pier.  Griesser spent another 15 minutes being battered by waves to clear the line, after which the rescue pulled the man back to shore.  Griesser then swam to meet his crew and upon reaching shore was exhausted and unable to stand.

For his bravery and endurance, Griesser was awarded the Gold Life Saving Medal on Feb. 23, 1901.

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