Sycamore crew returns home after busy 120-day Patrol

KODIAK, Alaska – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore is returning home to Cordova on Tuesday following 120 days underway supporting response efforts for the Deepwater Horizon /BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Sycamore also patrolled the Mid-Pacific in search of drug traffickers as they transited to and from the Gulf of Mexico.

Sycamore departed Cordova on May 24 en route Washington for a one month training assessment at the Coast Guard Afloat Training Group in Everett. The crew demonstrated their excellence in all assessment areas, ranging from damage control and communications to anti-terrorism and gunnery exercises. They achieved a “clean sweep” of all drills. The day before completing the training cycle, the ship received orders to “turn left” when exiting the Strait of Juan de Fuca and proceed through the Panama Canal to Pensacola, Florida for up to six months in support of Operation Deepwater Horizon.

With three days preparation in Seattle, Sycamore swapped out 18 crew members, loaded two weather buoys on deck, and took on fuel and supplies to make the 5,000 mile transit. Cmdr. James Houck, Sycamore’s commanding officer, described the crew’s reaction; “The crew took the changes in stride. Embodying the Coast Guard’s motto of Semper Paratus (Always Ready), we knew the nation needed us in the Gulf of Mexico and we responded with gusto. The disappointment of not being able to return home after a very successful training cycle was quickly overcome by the crew’s camaraderie and adventurous spirit as we headed out to do our duties.”

Between Seattle and the Panama Canal, Sycamore set two offshore weather buoys for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, retrieved and reset a wayward navigational buoy, and monitored the waters off Central America for drug trafficking.

During its 42 days in the Gulf of Mexico, the crew of the Sycamore directed the Coast Guard’s oil spill skimming and vessel of opportunity support fleets along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida while constantly looking for skimmable oil. The crew also served as a search and rescue guard ship and provided hurricane contingency support.

“Sycamore’s crew responded remarkably to every challenge Deepwater Horizon through our way,” said Houck. “We are very proud of the contributions and hard work of the entire Coast Guard and applaud the many Coast Guardsmen involved in the response.”

The Sycamore is a 225-foot Seagoing Buoy Tender with a crew of seven officers and 44 enlisted. Sycamore was one of eight 225-foot Seagoing Buoy Tenders to respond to the Deepwater Horizon crisis. Their homeports range from Newport, R.I. to Honolulu, Hawaii. Sycamore’s homeport of Cordova, Alaska is the farthest from the Gulf of Mexico. Half of the Coast Guard’s 225 fleet was called to action, and seven of the eight remain in the Gulf of Mexico, awaiting detailed decontamination and to be cleaned of the oil they skimmed.

At the height of the Deepwater Horizon response 47,849 people, 123 aircraft and 8,044 vessels were deployed to collect, burn and disperse oil as well as protect sensitive shoreline, cleanup oil impacted areas, and monitor for the health and safety of people in the region.

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