Guam-based buoy tender returns home after multi-mission patrol through the Pacific

APRA HARBOR, Guam — Just before midnight, Tuesday, Nov. 3, the U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender Sequoia and its crew of 51 returned to home port in Apra Harbor, Guam, after a successful two-and-a-half month deployment.

The Sequoia’s deployment encompassed rigorous training in defense readiness, improved maritime safety and security in the Pacific, assisted scientific research and included search and rescue support.

“In my short time aboard, I’m really happy to have participated in such missions knowing that I directly contributed to search and rescue, aids to navigation, scientific research and military readiness,” said Ensign Andrew Haley, the newest member of the crew.

The crew of the 225-foot buoy tender left Guam Aug. 17, to transit more than 8,000 miles to complete a “Tailored Ship Training Availability,” or TSTA, in Honolulu; established an aid to navigation at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands; located an adrift National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) buoy near Wake Island; and, responded to a maritime distress signal northwest of Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshalls.

The deployment to Honolulu for shipboard training and evaluation required more than eight months of preparation to ready the crew for damage control and seamanship exercises.Every crew member was trained to respond to emergency scenarios ranging from fire and flooding to toxic gas leaks and terrorist attacks. The Sequoia’s crew earned excellence awards in navigation, seamanship, weapons, damage control and medical proficiencies.

After departing Honolulu, the crew headed to Kwajalein Atoll to replace a destroyed aid to navigation that marked shoal water on the critical Roi-Namur Highway Channel. Kwajalein Atoll is used by the U.S. Army as an advanced missile development and test site. The aid was destroyed by a vessel that strayed out of the channel. The Roi-Namur Highway is used as a key marine shipping channel for Army transport ships and features many coral heads just below the surface of the water. The Sequoia crew established a new buoy clearly marking the channel for the safety of ship traffic.

In a joint effort with NOAA, the Sequoia crew located and recovered a NOAA buoy that drifted more than 2,000 miles from its original position 200 miles southeast of Hawaii’s Big Island. The buoy has been adrift for more than a year and was located east of Wake island.

NOAA uses these buoys and attached electronics to collect vital information about ocean currents and marine weather. While 12 to 15 foot seas prevented the safe recovery of this buoy, an on board NOAA representative was able to evaluate the condition of the buoy and provide real-time information to NOAA.

On the final leg of the trip, the Sqquoia crew responded to a marine distress signal from an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) located 150 miles northwest of Eniwetok Atoll. At the time, it was unknown which vessel the EPIRB belonged to and contact information on the EPIRB registration was non-existent.

EPIRBs are used by mariners worldwide to send out an emergency signal to notify the U.S. Coast Guard of a vessel in distress. An intense two day search revealed the EPIRB had been accidentally discarded over the side of a fishing vessel. The vessel was eventually located in Port Majuro and the search was closed.

“The search could have been avoided if the vessel had properly registered their EPIRB and updated their contact information in the worldwide database,” said Sequoia’s commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Matt Salas. “The Coast Guard encourages mariners to review and update their EPIRB registrations to ensure that if in an emergency, they can be found quickly.”

The crew of the Guam-based Sequoia routinely carries out the Coast Guard’s missions of law enforcement, maritime safety, maritime mobility, environmental protection and national defense in an area that spans the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands.

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