On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human to step onto the lunar surface of the moon; over 48 years later, the U.S. Coast Guard is still using the same technology to conduct modern day operations.
The Coast Guard Cutter Active, a 210-foot medium endurance Reliance-class cutter homeported in Port Angeles, Washington, is the eighth Coast Guard vessel to bear the name and was officially commissioned Sept. 1, 1966—almost three years before Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon.
Petty Officer 1st Class Victor Arcelay, a damage controlman and one of the 75 crew members aboard Active, has the daunting task of keeping the Active, well — active.
“Imagine you have a ship that is 52, 53-years-old, you have to deal with systems that are about the same age,” said Arcelay. “As everything advances, parts become obsolete and chasing down parts or trying to fix with what you have available is a challenge.”
The Active is currently operating well beyond its 30-year design service life. The Medium Endurance Cutter class is considered the backbone of the Coast Guard’s fleet; however, engineering challenges have plagued the operations of these vessels in recent years. There are many unique challenges to being the lead damage controlman aboard a cutter. It is damage control, not damage repair says Arcelay.
“Reporting here has kept me busy and I’m happy for it,” said Arcelay. “I usually tell my wife she’s my one and only, but the ship is my mistress, because I spend so many hours on this ship it would make any wife jealous.”
The crew returned June 1, 2018, from a 53-day counter-narcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean where they interdicted three “panga” style vessels and one pleasure craft, resulting in the seizure of more than three tons of illicit narcotics worth an estimated $95 million wholesale value, and the apprehension of 11 suspected drug smugglers.
Despite aging platforms, Medium Endurance Cutter crews continue to patrol the drug transit zone in the Pacific Ocean near Central and South America with success. In fact, these crews stopped nearly a third of all drugs seized by the U.S. Coast Guard in Fiscal Year 2017, more than 138,000 pounds. In Fiscal Year 2017, the Coast Guard removed more than 493,000 pounds of cocaine worth more than $6.6 billion, which was a new record for the service, up from 443,000 pounds of cocaine in Fiscal Year 2016.