Coast Guard Cutter Campbell crew returns home in time for the holidays, but without their ship

Coast Guard District 1 NewsBOSTON — The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Campbell are home after completing a busy 55-day fisheries and search-and-rescue patrol in the northern Atlantic Ocean.

The Campbell, a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Kittery, Maine, departed Oct. 24 for the patrol and arrived in Boston Saturday.

During the patrol, Campbell’s crew boarded 54 commercial fishing vessels to ensure safety equipment, fishing gear, and catch limits were in compliance with federal requirements.

On Dec. 14, crewmembers medically evacuated an injured fisherman who had lost two fingers and severely injured a third in an accident off the coast of Atlantic City, N.J. Following the radio call for help from the fishing vessel Kennedy Hellen, the Campbell’s crew was on scene in less than an hour to administer first aid. A Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City helicopter crew safely transported the fisherman to Atlantic City Medical Center for treatment.

“Because we were able to reach the fisherman quickly and our corpsman did a great job administering first aid, the man was able to get the advanced medical treatment he needed quickly,” said Cmdr. Kurtis Virkaitis, the Campbell’s commanding officer. “Fortunately the ER was able to repair the severely injured finger and reattach one of the two severed fingers.”

The Campbell’s crewmembers also towed two disabled fishing boats to safety when they became stranded off shore.

The first took the cutter crew about a day and a half to tow the vessel in 7-8 foot seas from approximately 60 miles east of Cape Cod, Mass., to Cape Cod Bay, after the fishing boat’s engine broke down.

The second tow took the crew about 12 hours to complete after the fishing boat’s nets became entangled in the propeller approximately 50 miles south of Montauk, NY. The vessel was towed to Block Island, R.I.

When returning to port, the crew usually arrives in Kittery with the cutter, however this time the crew left the cutter in Boston and are returning home by bus. The ship will stay behind and be taken on patrol by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Bear, a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth, Va.

As part of an eight-year plan to increase reliability and reduce total maintenance cost, every medium-endurance cutter is undergoing an extensive eleven-month maintenance period at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, Md.

While this work is happening the crew is periodically assigned to relieve the crew of an active cutter and take it on patrol. This process allows a minimal loss of total patrol time on the high seas and helps to keep the crew trained and proficient while their cutter is repaired, upgraded, and improved. Each cutter will receive extensive updates to obsolete, unreliable, or maintenance intensive equipment; much of which dates back to the 1980s when they initially entered service. After this patrol, the Campbell crew will take possession of the cutter again.

“I am extremely proud of my crew not only for their hard work and dedication during the patrol, but also for the quick turnaround to help get the ship underway with a new crew,” said Virkaitis. “The commitment of both crews to this process keeps our ships on patrol, while allowing the Coast Guard to make critical updates to our aging fleet so we can carry our offshore capability into the future.”

Because this class of cutter will need to last for up to 20 years before it is replaced, these upgrades are essential to continuing multi-week offshore patrols including operations requiring enhanced communications, and helicopter and pursuit boat operations, which provide a key capability for homeland security operations at sea.

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