Coast Guard Cutter Sherman returns home from Bering Sea, final deployment

Chief Petty Officer Andrew French, a boatswains mate aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sherman (WHEC 720), a 378-foot high endurance cutter homeported in Honolulu, kisses his wife after returning home after a 76-day patrol to the Bering Sea, Jan. 23, 2018. This homecoming was the last time Sherman will return from deployment as the crew prepares to decommission the ship in March, after nearly 50 years of meritorious service. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle/Released)

Chief Petty Officer Andrew French kisses his wife after returning home after a 76-day patrol to the Bering Sea, Jan. 23, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle)

HONOLULU — The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Sherman (WHEC 720) returned home Tuesday after a 76-day patrol in the Bering Sea.

This homecoming was the last time Sherman will return from deployment as the crew prepares to decommission the ship in March, after nearly 50 years of meritorious service.

During the three-month patrol, the crew supported the safe transit of a disabled vessel over 800 miles to Dutch Harbor, enforced fisheries regulations in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. They also provided a command and control platform capable of embarking a helicopter, thus providing search and rescue coverage to those operating in the Bering Sea.

Sherman has a storied history including being the last remaining U.S. Warship in the Coast Guard or Navy to have sunk an enemy vessel. It is also one of only two cutters to hold the Vietnam Service Award and the only cutter to hold the Combat Action Ribbon for action in the Vietnam War.

In 2001 it circumnavigated the world, after conducting U.N. sanctions enforcement duty in the Persian Gulf and goodwill projects in Madagascar, South Africa and Cape Verde.

Adding to Sherman’s history, in March of 2007, a boarding team dispatched from the cutter discovered 17 metric tons of cocaine on the Panamanian-flagged freighter, Gatun. This seizure remains the largest drug bust in U.S. history with an estimated street value of $600 million. As the record holder, Sherman proudly wears the Golden Snowflake.

The crew rounded out the cutter’s storied career in the Bering Sea; conducting 16 fisheries boardings, issuing four fisheries violations and one safety violation, ensuring the integrity of the $6 billion fishing industry. As the primary search and rescue asset in the region at the time, Sherman also ensured the safe transit of the crew of the Resolve Pioneer, a Dutch Harbor-based ocean-going tug, following a severe casualty at the far end of the Aleutian chain, restricting their speed and maneuverability.

“As Sherman and her crew return home from this final patrol, it is humbling to look back on the history and the accomplishments of this crew and the previous,” said Capt. Steve Wittrock, commanding officer of Sherman. “This final patrol has been significant in that the Bering Sea mission is one of the most demanding and historically important in the Coast Guard and I am very proud of the way that the crew has performed throughout the last two challenging months.”

Sherman is one of the Coast Guard’s four remaining 378-foot high endurance cutters still in operation. The 1950s era fleet of cutters is presently being replaced by the national security cutters, which will soon serve as the Coast Guard’s primary, long-range asset. Honolulu will serve as a homeport to two of the national security cutters, replacing Sherman and the already decommissioned Morgenthau.

Correction: This article originally stated that the Sherman was the first cutter to circumnavigate the globe.  In fact, the Coast Guard Cutter Eastwind became the first cutter to circumnavigate the globe in 1960-61, departing Boston Oct. 25, 1960 & arriving back in Boston May 1961.

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