Coast Guard Cutter Walnut returns home after two-month patrol

HONOLULU — The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Walnut, a 225-foot Juniper-Class buoy tender, arrived in Honolulu Wednesday after a two-month long multi-mission patrol.

The Walnut’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Jeffrey Randall, and his crew of 50, arrived home after traveling more than 5,000 miles, visiting three foreign countries and two U.S. territories.

During the cutter’s patrol, Walnut crewmembers serviced aids to navigation in American Samoa, conducted joint boardings with Australian fisheries officers, exercised a Tongan shiprider agreement, participated in tsunami rebuilding in Samoa, and transported a technician from the University of Hawaii to Canton, Kiribati, and the U.S. territory of Johnston Island.

The cutter’s first stop was in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, for international engagement with the Tongan Defense Services (TDS). After hosting a reception in port and conducting law enforcement discussions with TDS leaders, the Walnut embarked TDS and Tongan Ministry of Fisheries Officers to exercise a U.S.-Tonga shiprider agreement. This agreement, which was signed at a ceremony in August 2009 by Rear Adm. Manson K. Brown, the commander of the 14th Coast Guard District, and Va’inga Tone, Tonga’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, allows U.S. Coast Guard cutters to embark a shiprider of the Tongan Defense Services to exercise Tongan enforcement authority.

The crew then made their annual trip to Pago Pago, American Samoa, to service floating and fixed aids to navigation on the islands of Tutuila, Ta’u and Ofu. Many of the aids in this U.S. territory are in remote locations and reaching them requires carrying up to 90 pounds of equipment through thick, overgrown jungle. The efforts of the crew ensured that Pago Pago and other harbors remain open for vital supplies and shipping in this south Pacific region.

In addition to its law enforcement and aids to navigation missions, the Walnut’s crew dedicated their time in Nuku’alofa and Apia, Samoa, to deliver aid to schools, hospitals and shelters, provided by the U.S. government and donated by individuals among the crew. The crew also participated in various community service projects, including school repairs, a beach cleanup, and a playground relocation. Many members also helped build houses with Habitat for Humanity during the cutter’s port call in Apia, Samoa, for villages devastated by the September 2009 tsunami.

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