Astoria-based Coast Guard cutter completes $2 million maintenance period

Pacific Northwest Coast Guard Newsby Lt. Cmdr. Brian Smicklas and Ens. Mark Zanowicz, Coast Guard Cutter Alert

PACIFIC OCEAN — The Coast Guard Cutter Alert, a 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutter homeported in Astoria, Ore., and often seen moored near the Columbia River Maritime Museum in downtown Astoria, recently received a much-needed overhaul on its hull and shipboard equipment at the Fairhaven Shipyard in Bellingham, Wash.

After representing the Coast Guard at the Portland, Ore., Rose Festival, Alert’s crew arrived in Bellingham in early June for a 62-day maintenance period.

During this period, new equipment was installed that improved the crew’s ability for damage control, including fighting fires and combating flooding, workers addressed metal corrosion below the waterline and-most visibly-the ship was given a beautiful new coat of white paint.

The Alert was commissioned in 1969, and shipboard maintenance is considered an all-hands evolution.

“Alert is well maintained, but that doesn’t happen by accident,” said Lt. Matt Calvert, engineer officer aboard Alert. “From the first day aboard, we mentor the crew in stewardship with government property and that performing proper maintenance is critical to remaining operationally ready.”

While the ship was undergoing repairs, many new crewmembers arrived, including female enlisted members, which makes Alert the first 210-foot cutter with a mixed gender crew. Due to the hazardous nature of the repair work, a portion of Alert’s crew remained in Astoria and, along with working on shore-side qualifications, completed community service projects for the city of Astoria and Warrenton, Ore., City Schools.

“It was our pleasure to assist the City of Astoria and Warrenton schools,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Mitchell Piontek, a food service specialist originally from Tampa Bay, Fla. “Astoria is a certified Coast Guard City. It’s our homeport and it feels good to help out.”

In addition to community service projects, some crewmembers took the opportunity to attend law enforcement training in preparation for their upcoming patrol. Training included education on Coast Guard boarding procedures and counter-narcotics tactics.

“Although search-and-rescue is the primary mission, we also need to train and be ready to enforce laws on the water,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Clifford Johnson, a maritime enforcement specialist originally from Leesburg, Fla. “When we are patrolling the high seas, we have to be ready for just about anything.”

Alert’s crew regularly deploys as far north as the Bering Sea and as far south as Central America. The completion of the ship’s maintenance in mid August ensures it will be able to fulfill the Coast Guard’s missions for many years to come.

“Alert was commissioned in 1969, while there have been other Coast Guard cutters with that name in the past, Alert has now borne the name longer than any of its predecessors,” said Cmdr. Daniel Pickles, Alert’s commanding officer. “With this recent work, we’ve ensured that we will continue to bear that name proudly and serve the maritime community for years to come.”

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