Coast Guard Cutter Dallas recognized for service

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The commander of the Coast Guard’s largest operational command will visit Charleston, S.C., today to recognize and welcome home a Coast Guard cutter and crew from a historic 4 ½ month deployment to the Gulf of Guinea, the Mediterranean and the Black seas.

Vice Adm. Robert J. Papp, Jr., Commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area, will present a Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation award to the Charleston-based 378-foot cutter Dallas, formally recognizing the ship’s crew for exceptionally meritorious service while deployed to conduct theater security cooperation missions in support of the Department of Defense’s Africa Command (AFRICOM), European Command (EUCOM) and the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with what Dallas and her crew accomplished during this historic deployment,” said Papp. “A deployment of this duration is incredibly challenging on the crew and the ship, especially a ship as old as Dallas.”

The Vietnam-era cutter Dallas was commissioned Oct. 26, 1967, at the Avondale Shipyards in Louisiana. Only seven members of the current 163-person crew of Dallas had been born at that time.

“For Dallas to still be serving her nation 41 years after being commissioned – from seeing action off the coast of Vietnam to supporting combined operations in Africa, the Mediterranean, and Black seas – is a testament to the character and dedication of current and past crews’ and their ability to keep our assets mission capable,” said Papp.

In January, Dallas lost two days during counter-drug operations in the Caribbean when equipment for making fresh-water broke. Soon after that an outdated piece of equipment that filters lube oil for the ship’s main diesel engine also broke and because of the unavailability of replacements had to be completely recast. That same part again broke during this deployment, but the crew took the repair into their own hands and while at sea, and in less than 48 hours, welded and repaired the equipment which held for the remainder of the mission.

Dallas’ crew also overcame significant problems with one if it’s main diesel engine cylinders while in Gibraltar.

“Replacing the cylinder typically takes three weeks in homeport with a tech-rep on site to assist,” said Cmdr. Robert Hendrickson, Dallas’ executive officer. “Our engineers didn’t have that much time, or a tech-rep, or the luxury of having the tools and parts and support normally found at homeport. They did the job – perfectly – in four days, pier-side in a foreign port, thousands of miles from a tech-rep or any special tools.”

The Coast Guard’s fiscal year 2009 budget request for $9.3 billion has been appropriated into law.

“The sustainment funding we received in the FY09 budget is important, and will help maintain our aging surface assets such as Dallas, but isn’t a long-term solution,” said Papp. “Dallas is a perfect example of how for too long our people have demonstrated amazing ingenuity to overcome challenges and do more with less, but we owe them better.

“The U.S. Coast Guard is the 37th oldest naval fleet in the world, and we must continue our efforts to deploy newer, more capable assets and technologies into the fleet,” said Papp. “The current Deepwater acquisition project, which will replace our service’s cutters and aircraft, is vitally important to ensuring that our Coast Guard men and women have the right tools they need to do the ever-increasing work they are being asked to do to keep our nation safe.”

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