Coast Guard Cutter Tornado returns home

NEW ORLEANS - U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tornado (WPC-14) returned to its homeport in Pascagoula, Miss., Saturday following a 33-day deployment that included patrols in the Straits of Florida along with annual operational readiness exercises in Mayport, Fla.

NEW ORLEANS – U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tornado (WPC-14) returned to its homeport in Pascagoula, Miss., Saturday following a 33-day deployment that included patrols in the Straits of Florida along with annual operational readiness exercises in Mayport, Fla.

While patrolling the Straits between Key West, Fla., and Cuba, Tornado conducted Alien Migration Interdiction Operations, helping disrupt the flow of illegal immigration to the U.S. The highlight of Tornado’s time in the Key West theater was an eight-hour go-fast chase that covered 200 miles and involved two other Coast Guard ships and a Coast Guard aircraft. The Cutter Farallon, a 110-ft patrol boat homeported in Miami encountered the go-fast and initiated pursuit approximately 50 miles west of the Tornado. Tornado was tasked to assist in the chase, and worked with the Farallon and another Coast Guard cutter to coordinate communications and position updates among all the vessels involved as the chase continued in international waters along the north coast of Cuba and south along Cuba’s west coast.

A C-130 Hercules aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Miami provided aerial coverage and provided critical information back to the surface assets during the go-fast pursuit. With Farallon in pursuit, Tornado closing on the chase, and the aircraft overhead, an intercept plan was developed that took advantage of the approaching darkness and the speedboat’s inability to evade the Coast Guard ships’ coordinated pursuit. Farallon intercepted the speedboat in the vicinity of the Yucatan Channel as Tornado sealed any potential escape route and the 40-ft high-performance speed boat loaded with extra food and lifejackets was stopped. The two people on board the vessel were turned over to Customs and Border Protection officials in Key West, Fla.

Just days after this interdiction, Tornado was off to Mayport, Fla., for annual operational readiness exercises. These exercises, know as Tailored Annual Cutter Training or TACT, verified the effectiveness of shipboard training teams and drilled the ship’s crew in firefighting, damage control, deck seamanship, gunnery and machinery casualty control exercises. The aggressive training regimen included shipboard drills at sea and in port along with extensive classroom training that culminated in live flooding and fire casualties for the crew in Navy shipboard mock-ups. The Tornado crew earned the cutter’s first clean sweep of all exercises at TACT, thus also earning the coveted Battle ‘E’ (expert) Award that signifies outstanding proficiency in all shipboard readiness areas.

Following the cutter’s return home, Tornado will enjoy a several week inport maintenance and training period before her next deployment later this spring.

U.S. Coast Guard Photograph

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