Coast Guard Cutter Valiant crew returns from Caribbean patrol, hurricane response

A Coast Guard Cutter Valiant crew member offloads a bale of cocaine at Station Fort Lauderdale, Sept. 27, 2017. The drugs were transferred to the Valiant after being interdicted in three separate cases in the Eastern Pacific in September. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray.

A Coast Guard Cutter Valiant crew member offloads a bale of cocaine at Station Fort Lauderdale, Sept. 27, 2017.  Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Valiant returned home to Naval Station Mayport Friday after completing a multi-mission patrol, including responding to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

During their two-month deployment, the crew conducted counter-drug and illegal migration operations and later switched roles to disaster relief operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Shortly after Hurricane Irma impacted St. Thomas and St. John, the Valiant crew led the reconstitution of Coast Guard shore facilities, search-and-rescue capabilities, and disaster response efforts. The crew conducted round-the-clock operations and were assisted by Coast Guard cutters Yellowfin, Donald Horsley, Joseph Tezanos, Joseph Napier, and Heriberto Hernandez. The crew organized the inter-island movement of law enforcement agents and emergency management personnel, the delivery of critical relief supplies and the evacuation of those in distress. On September 12th, Valiant, Hernandez, Napier, and Yellowfin evacuated 99 residents and 13 pets from the storm-ravaged island of St. John. The evacuees were delivered to awaiting cruise ships in St. Thomas that would transport them to safety in Puerto Rico and Florida.

A day before Hurricane Maria made landfall in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, Valiant and Tezanos crewmembers assisted in the evacuation of eight residents on St. John before the cutters had to evade 300 miles to the south for their own safety. Valiant was the first Coast Guard cutter to arrive back in the ravaged Greater Antilles. The crew provided immediate assessments of shoreside damage and conducted ports and waterways surveys in St. Croix to ensure mariners could safely navigate. The Valiant crew also assisted a commercial tugboat struggling to gain control of a 535-foot drillship drifting towards Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Valiant crewmembers helped the tug reestablish the tow with less than hour to spare before the 18,000-ton vessel loaded with 17,000 gallons of fuel would have run aground.

“In times like these, we get to see humanity at it its best,” said Cmdr. Tim Cronin, Valiant’s commanding officer. “Over these last few weeks, Coast Guard crews, first responders, and volunteers came together to help people in most dire need. The people of Puerto Rico and Virgin Island are resilient. I am confident they will recover and we are proud to have been part of the rebuilding effort.”

Prior to the hurricanes, the Valiant crew played a role in support of Operation Unified Resolve, an interagency maritime operation aimed at preventing illicit drugs from entering Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Valiant’s crew also spent time deterring illegal and unsafe maritime migration in the vicinity of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The crew ended the patrol by assisting in the transfer of 26 suspected drug smugglers and 500 kilograms of cocaine worth more than $16.5 million to federal law enforcement agents in Florida.

Valiant crewmembers conducted community service during their scheduled port calls. In early August, the crew volunteered and bought supplies for a local orphanage in Puerto Rico. Two weeks later, the crew visited a rehabilitation facility for teenagers in St. Kitts. The volunteers educated the teens on the Coast Guard’s missions, life underway on a cutter, and most importantly, shared personal stories of overcoming adversity. The children, in turn, shared how they were handling their challenges, succeeding at schoolwork, and building life skills.

“Normally when we visit ports, we volunteer our labor to help a local community with a specific work project,” said Seaman Estan Rodney, a native of nearby St. Vincent. “This was special because I believe we made an immediate and positive impact on the kids just by talking to them and sharing our own life experiences.”

This year marks the 50th year of service for the Coast Guard Cutter Valiant. The 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutter with a 75-member crew was launched in January 1967 and commissioned in November. Valiant and 26 other Medium Endurance Cutters are slated for replacement by the Offshore Patrol Cutter. The OPC will have superior sensors, pursuit boat and helicopter capabilities, and interoperability with other military and federal partners.

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

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