ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Alameda-based U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche returned to its homeport of Alameda Saturday completing a 14-week deployment that included counter-smuggling patrols, participation in the largest multi-national maritime exercise in the world, and fisheries enforcement operations.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Waesche spent the first month of their deployment off the coast of Southern California and Mexico in support of joint inter-agency, counter-drug operations. Working with other Coast Guard assets, Customs and Border patrol (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Mexican navy, the cutter's crew interdicted more than 10,000 pounds of illegal narcotics and six suspected narco-traffickers.
Waesche then shifted their focus to the Central Pacific, where they participated in the multi-national Rim of the Pacific Exercises 2014 (RIMPAC). Waesche's participation in these exercises, which took place off the coast of Hawaii, highlighted the Coast Guard's unique capabilities and partnerships with Department of Defense entities and international partners along the Pacific Rim. It also served as a unique, large-scale training opportunity that provided realistic training in support of a wide range of Coast Guard missions, including search and rescue, maritime interdiction, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and national defense.
After RIMPAC, the cutter headed to the South Pacific Ocean to conduct Fisheries Enforcement in support of the 14th Coast Guard District, which spans from Hawaii to American Samoa, Guam, and other U.S. possessions in the Pacific. During the patrol, Waesche embarked three fisheries enforcement specialists from partner nations in the Pacific, including Kiribati and the Cook Islands. Operating under the authority of these ship riders, Waesche was able to aid them in enforcing their fisheries laws by delivering boarding teams to fishing vessels within Kiribati's and the Cook Islands' exclusive economic zones, which are adjacent to parts of the non-contiguous U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone - areas where long-range enforcement is often not feasible or too difficult due to their lack of off-shore patrol assets.
"Fisheries enforcement is one of the Coast Guard's most important missions," said Ens. Dan Pereira, a boarding officer aboard Waesche. "Being able to assist our Kiribati and Cook Islands ship riders in the enforcement of their fisheries laws not only helps to protect marine resources in their waters, but also in U.S. waters - especially when it comes to highly migratory species such as tuna. The partnership we have fostered works to benefit the livelihood of both U.S. citizens and the people of these small islands around the Pacific."
In addition to fisheries enforcement, the crew of Waesche had the opportunity to conduct flight operations with the French navy off the coast of Tahiti, completing a series of hoists and simulated supply-drops with the French AS365 Helicopter, the European version of the Coast Guard's HH-65 Dolphin.
"This deployment focused on two very important things; the extensive and unique capabilities of the Coast Guard's new national security cutter platform and its ability to inter-operate with a broad range of domestic and international partners," said Capt. Robert Hendrickson, Waesche's commanding officer. "As the world becomes a smaller place, the importance of strategic partnerships becomes more and more apparent. The Coast Guard's ability to take our national security missions to remote sovereign U.S. waters - from the Arctic to the South Pacific - and to successfully conduct our statutory missions alongside our regional partners makes national security cutters like Waesche the right platform for the future and a good investment for the American taxpayers."
Homeported at Coast Guard Island in Alameda, Coast Guard Cutter Waesche, is the second of eight planned national security cutters. The cutter is 418 feet long with a top speed of 28 knots and a range of 12,000 nautical miles. Cutters like Waesche routinely conduct operations from South America to the Bering Sea where their unmatched combination of range, speed, and ability to operate in extreme weather provides the mission flexibility necessary to conduct counter-narcotics, homeland security, and alien migrant interdiction operations, domestic fisheries protection, search and rescue, and other Coast Guard missions at great distances from shore keeping threats far from the U.S. mainland.