The United States Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast (WMEC 623) returned to their Astoria homeport Monday following a 55-day counter-narcotics patrol.
The crew aboard the 210-foot medium endurance cutter steamed more than 11,000 miles conducting training, law enforcement, search and rescue, and helicopter operations in international waters ranging from Oregon to Central America.
The Steadfast deployed with additional crew members from Maintenance Augmentation Team Seattle, Electronic Support Detachment Petaluma, and the soon-to-be-commissioned U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Argus (WMSM 915).
While en route to the cutter’s patrol area in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Steadfast’s crew hosted a helicopter operations proficiency event for multiple aircrews from Coast Guard Air Stations San Francisco, Barbers Point, Humboldt Bay, and North Bend. For three days, the crews conducted numerous flight operations including over 100 landings and various other operations. The resulting aviator qualifications across the four aviation units included one initial pilot qualification, and one upgrade to instructor pilot.
While in theater, Steadfast’s crew identified and located a high-speed, panga-style vessel suspected of smuggling contraband. After initially pursuing the vessel with the cutter’s over-the-horizon small boat, they handed off the case to a partner nation for intercept as the vessel neared partner nation territorial seas.
During the transit back to Astoria, Steadfast’s crew conducted flight operations with Air Station Humboldt Bay. Steadfast and the aircrew completed six night landings for pilot training and qualification. Flight operations were cut short when the aircrew was diverted for a search-and-rescue case involving a hiker stranded and in distress. Steadfast’s crew quickly adapted, refueled the helicopter on deck, and allowed the MH-65 to respond within minutes of receiving the call, demonstrating the versatility and adaptability of the cutter and crew to respond to any of the Coast Guard’s missions.
This was the first patrol aboard Steadfast for the new commanding officer, Cmdr. Brock S. Eckel, who assumed command in July.
“This was a wildly productive deployment with noteworthy enhancements to crew qualifications and proficiency following a significant personnel turnover,” said Eckel. “I am overwhelmed by the camaraderie of the Steadfast crew and honored to join them for adventure on the high seas.”
Steadfast is a 54-year-old Reliance Class cutter that has been homeported in Astoria since 1994. Previously, Steadfast was homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she earned the nickname “El Tiburon Blanco” (‘the White Shark’), from drug smugglers for her notoriety in counter-narcotics operations in the Florida Straits and the Caribbean Sea.