Coast Guard transports fresh water to the island-nation of Tokelau

Coast Guard District 14 Newsby Petty Officer 3rd Class Angela Henderson

The Coast Guard Cutter Walnut is transiting 350 miles from American Samoa to the island-nation of Tokelau to distribute approximately 36,000 gallons of drinking water. The Tokelau residents are suffering from severe drought conditions.

The Walnut, a 225-foot buoy tender homeported in Honolulu was on routine patrol servicing aids to navigation when they received tasking to assist with this humanitarian mission.

Walnut is transporting a seven-person needs assessment team from the government of New Zealand and will deliver water to the 1,500 Tokelau residents.

The Walnut is a major multi-mission asset for the 14th Coast Guard District. The Walnut is uniquely equipped to perform this mission and was involved in several significant operations within the last 10 years.

In November of 2002, the crew of the Walnut left on a six-month deployment to support the U.S. and Coalition forces in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The cutter crew provided logistical support to coalition forces and established a navigational channel in the Khawr Abd Allah waterway leading to the Iraqi port.

In the summers of 2008 and 2009 the Walnut crew assisted the U.S. Army and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration personnel recover more than 62,000 pounds of marine debris from the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. This debris was delivered to the Hawaiian Electric Company on Oahu where it was converted into electricity.

In May of 2010 the Walnut deployed to the Gulf of Mexico for six months in support of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill. While responding to the oil spill the crew recovered more than 270,000 gallons of oily water. During its transit to the Gulf of Mexico the Walnut crew interdicted an Ecuadorian go-fast vessel and confiscated 300 pounds of cocaine.

“We are a military service whose mission is multi-operational; not only do we service aids to navigation, perform search and rescue and law enforcement, we also have the capability to respond to humanitarian missions,” said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Huff, commanding officer of the Walnut. “We are fortunate to be in the position to work with foreign and local governments and help the people in Tokelau.”

The U.S. Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand contacted Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu Sunday to discuss transporting a New Zealand assessment team and drinking water to Tokelau.

Tokelau has no useable airfield, making an air mission impossible. The Walnut rendezvoused with New Zealand’s seven-person assessment team in American Samoa and is transiting with them to Tokelau. After a 30-hour transit the Walnut and assessment team will arrive in Tokelau early Friday morning.

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