Coast Guard Cutter Diligence crew to return to homeport

DiligenceWILMINGTON, N.C. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Diligence is scheduled to return to their homeport in Wilmington Saturday following a 45-day patrol in the Caribbean Sea.

During their patrol, the Diligence crew conducted search and rescue operations off the west coast of Cuba and conducted drug interdiction operations in the vicinity of Columbia and Panama.

In anticipation of Aviation Standardization, a three-day assessment of the Diligence crew’s flight operations capabilities scheduled for early October, the crew practiced flight operations their first evening underway.  An MH-65C Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Savannah in Savannah, Georgia, met the cutter crew to conduct deck landings, helicopter in flight refueling (HIFR) and vertical replenishment (VERTREP) exercises.  HIFR is a way to refuel a helicopter without the need for the helicopter to land on deck, and a VERTREP allows a helicopter crew to pick up or deliver cargo on the flight deck without landing.

During their patrol, the crew of the Diligence diverted to conduct a search and rescue mission based on a distress signal from a sailboat between Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and the west coast of Cuba.  A boarding team, corpsman and engineers from the Diligence boarded the sailboat and learned the master of the boat was unable to steer or sail at the time.  Engineers from the Diligence repaired the boat’s autopilot system, while the corpsman assessed the master’s health with the assistance of a shore-based Coast Guard flight surgeon.  The sailboat master continued on his journey, and the Diligence crew returned to their law enforcement mission.

Throughout the patrol, the crew of the Diligence provided operational support to the Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) South in the Western Caribbean Sea.  In concert with JIATF South, the U.S. Coast Guard works alongside interagency and international partners to prevent and respond to illegal maritime migration and narcotics smuggling in the Caribbean Sea. Law enforcement personnel from the Diligence worked with the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Spencer, which is homeported in Boston, to interdict a vessel smuggling narcotics and prevented more than 700 kilograms of cocaine worth more than $23 million from being delivered to the United States.

When not conducting law enforcement activities, the crew of the Diligence focused on training in damage control, boat operations, engineering casualty control and ship handling for new crewmembers to complete their required shipboard qualifications.

Following the return to Wilmington, the crew of the Diligence plans to conduct maintenance.

The Coast Guard Cutter Diligence is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter with a crew of approximately 80 Coast Guard members. The cutter’s primary missions consist of counter drug and migrant interdiction, enforcing federal fishery laws and conducting search and rescue operations.

The 51-year-old cutter and 26 other medium endurance cutters are slated for replacement by a new class of ship, the Offshore Patrol Cutter, which will have modern sensors, pursuit boat and helicopter capabilities, and interoperability with other military and federal partners. The new class of cutter will provide enhanced surveillance necessary to detect threats far from U.S. shores and meet the demands of the Coast Guard’s homeland security, search and rescue, law enforcement and other vital missions.

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