Cutter Tahoma Returning to Maine from Haiti

KITTERY, MAINE ­­­­– The Coast Guard Cutter Tahoma, based at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is scheduled to return home today after a 56-day patrol in the Caribbean, which included providing support to Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake.

The 270-foot Cutter Tahoma crew was in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, concluding preparations for an assigned counter-drug patrol when the devastating earthquake hit Haiti.

Arriving in Port au Prince within 36-hours, the 100-person Tahoma crew was one of the first Coast Guard units on scene to aid Haitian earthquake victims.

The cutter crew brought supplies and established a makeshift trauma clinic along with Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk crewmembers, Sri Lankan Army company members, and doctors and nurses from a local hospital that had collapsed. Navy medical personnel from the USS Carl Vinson and trauma specialists from Health and Human Services at the Killick Haitian coast guard base also assisted with the clinic.

Crewmembers from Tahoma, many with minimal medical training, aided doctors and corpsmen with procedures that ranged from preparing limbs for amputation, to cleaning severely infected wounds and delivering babies.

By the time the Tahoma crew left Port au Prince, it was estimated between 500 and 1,000 critically injured people had passed through the makeshift trauma clinic, many of whom might have died or suffered debilitating injuries without the immediate medical care provided there. Tahoma’s operations specialists also coordinated medical flights for 187 critically injured people needing immediate care throughout Haiti.

The Tahoma’s crew surveyed six port facilities in and around Port au Prince. Because the majority of ports around Haiti’s capital had been rendered unusable by the earthquake’s destruction, these surveys were essential to the successful delivery of humanitarian supplies.

The cutter’s law enforcement personnel conducted maritime security operations with the Haitian coast guard in and around Port au Prince, which included escorting the first large delivery of aid. The Tahoma’s crew also helped the Haitian coast guard remain operational in the first days after the earthquake by assisting with repairs on their patrol boats, rehabilitating what they could of the Haitian coast guard’s base infrastructure, and providing their boat crews with food and fuel to conduct patrols.

Shortly after Tahoma’s response in Haiti, the cutter executed successful counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean. The crew successfully interdicted 1,500 kilograms of cocaine, worth between $28 and $31 million.

Working with the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton, the Tahoma’s crew embarked 88 Haitian migrants who had been rescued and repatriated them in Cap Haitien, Haiti.

The Tahoma, which was commissioned in 1987, has a long history of successfully executing a variety of missions in many environments.

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