Coast Guard Cutter Bear returns to Portsmouth after hurricane relief, marine resources protection mission

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Bear conducts a hurricane relief supply onload in Port Everglades, Florida, Oct. 4, 2017. From left to right is Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Fitzgerald, Chief Petty Officer Jeremy Stephens, Seaman Alexis Gove, Petty Officer 1st Class Ty Coulter, and Seaman Leon Ulrich. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christin Solomon/Released)

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Bear conducts a hurricane relief supply onload in Port Everglades, Florida, Oct. 4, 2017. From left to right is Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Fitzgerald, Chief Petty Officer Jeremy Stephens, Seaman Alexis Gove, Petty Officer 1st Class Ty Coulter, and Seaman Leon Ulrich. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christin Solomon)

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Christin Solomon

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Bear returned to their homeport in Portsmouth, Virginia, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, after a 28-day deployment providing hurricane relief in Puerto Rico and enforcing fisheries laws on the way home.

The Bear left Portsmouth Oct. 1 and set course for San Juan to take part in a mission as one of more than 15 Coast Guard assets sent to assist with delivering supplies, rebuilding infrastructure and ensuring safety of life at sea in the wake of the devastation left by Hurricane Maria.

The Bear transported more than 40,000 pounds of disaster relief supplies to the hurricane-stricken island, bringing vital food, shelter and water to those in need.

In addition to bringing supplies to help fellow Coast Guard members continue recovery efforts in San Juan and Borinquen, the Bear’s crew transported pallets of food and water collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Additionally, the cutter carried supplies for Homeland Security Investigations agents in Puerto Rico as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s united coordination to provide critical relief supplies to the island.

This mission hit close to home for several crew members who have family in Puerto Rico that experienced firsthand the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Maria Perez Bas spent most of her childhood growing up on the island where her family still lives today. Perez Bas explained that her mother, who lives in Luquillo, lacks electricity and cell phone service. Many roads around her remain blocked, leaving her in near-total isolation from the outside world.

Fireman Joseph Mancina, another crew member aboard the Bear, also has family members on the island. He, along with other crew members, takes pride in the fact they delivered supplies such as electrical generators, baby formula and other essential items to their loved ones.

Despite the personal toll the storm took on many crew members, they remain positive and eager to serve their fellow Americans.

“I’m excited to be a part of these relief efforts because it’s what I joined the Coast Guard to do — to help people in need,” explained Seaman Mark Smith, a cutter Bear crew member.

Undoubtedly, crew members aboard the Bear take pride in participating in the mission. The cutter is only one prong of the Coast Guard’s massive response to assist the areas impacted by Hurricane Maria. The optimism and selflessness of the crew combined with interagency support show how a crisis can bring out the best in people.

Following their relief efforts in Puerto Rico, the mission was not yet complete for the Bear’s crew. After offloading supplies, the cutter steamed north to resume their scheduled fisheries patrol. The Bear’s boarding officers and crew performed the missions of ensuring maritime safety and protecting the United States’ living marine resources by enforcing domestic and international fisheries laws.

Cutter Bear’s boarding officers worked tirelessly to protect safety of life at sea, performing numerous inspections on commercial and recreational fishing vessels and inspecting over 5,000 pounds of fish.

The Bear returned to Portsmouth after having patrolled over 2,000 miles of coastline and having helped to police, preserve and protect commercial fisheries valued at over $49 million to local economies.

Whether it is law enforcement at sea or humanitarian relief to those who need it most, cutter Bear’s crew stands ready to answer the call to service.

For more imagery and video of the Hurricane Maria response, please visit our Hurricane Maria Flickr page.

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