Families welcome home Cutter Diligence from 59-day patrol

Petty Officer 2nd Class Tony Bennett gets tight hugs from his children during the Cutter Diligence homecoming March 5, 2016 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Families, friends and well-wishers welcomed home Cutter Diligence crew in Wilmington Saturday following a 59-day patrol in the Florida Straits in support of Operation Vigilant Sentry and Operation Blue Hammer. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Mary Ann Holmes/Atlantic Area Ombudsman)

Petty Officer 2nd Class Tony Bennett gets tight hugs from his children during the Cutter Diligence homecoming March 5, 2016 in Wilmington, North Carolina.(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Mary Ann Holmes/Atlantic Area Ombudsman)

WILMINGTON, N.C. – Families, friends and well-wishers welcomed home the Coast Guard Cutter Diligence crew in Wilmington Saturday following a 59-day patrol in the Florida Straits in support of Operation Vigilant Sentry and Operation Blue Hammer.

Cutter Diligence crew rescued 20 migrants from three unseaworthy vessels in the Florida Straits and worked with agency partners to coordinate the rescue and care for an additional 220 migrants from 16 other vessels.

Operation Blue Hammer focuses on migrant interdiction and repatriation operations in the Florida Straits. Carrying out law enforcement and humanitarian missions simultaneously, the Coast Guard enforces immigration laws at sea, while also ensuring safety of life at sea for those attempting the dangerous trip across the Florida Straits in unseaworthy vessels from Cuba to the United States.

These migrant interdiction operations were coordinated with federal and interagency partners, including Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, U.S. Public Health Service, the 180th Airlift Squadron of the Missouri Air National Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and several Florida state and local law enforcement agencies

Other patrol highlights include coordinating help for a stranded Cuban-flagged tug that was guiding a tanker carrying 37,000 metric tons of crude oil to Havana, Cuba.

Cutter Diligence is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Wilmington, North Carolina with a crew of approximately 80. Its missions include counter drug and migrant interdiction, enforcing federal fishery laws, and search and rescue operations.

The 51-year-old Cutter Diligence, along with the service’s 26 other medium endurance cutters, is slated to be replaced by a new fleet of Offshore Patrol Cutters  that will operate more than 50 miles from land, carrying out the Coast Guard’s maritime security and safety activities in support of national interests.

The OPC will be an economical, multi-mission ship, providing pursuit boat and helicopter capabilities and interagency interoperability. Its advanced technical features include modern sensors and enhanced surveillance capabilities 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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