Dempsey Tours Coast Guard’s Newest National Security Cutter

ANNAPOLIS, Md., Nov. 1, 2011 — Rec­og­niz­ing the impor­tance of every pos­si­ble U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty asset, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff trav­eled here yes­ter­day to get a per­son­al tour of the newest Coast Guard nation­al secu­ri­ty cut­ter.

Coast Guard Com­man­dant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., left, and Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, vis­it the U.S. Coast Guard Cut­ter Strat­ton near Annapo­lis, Md., Oct. 31, 2011.
DOD pho­to by D. Myles Cullen
Click to enlarge

Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey and Coast Guard Com­man­dant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., land­ed by heli­copter aboard U.S. Coast Guard Cut­ter Strat­ton as it tran­sit­ed up the Chesa­peake Bay near here. The 418-foot Leg­end-class ves­sel is the third of eight planned nation­al secu­ri­ty cut­ters built to car­ry out the most chal­leng­ing mar­itime secu­ri­ty, law enforce­ment and nation­al defense mis­sions, explained Coast Guard Capt. Charles Cushin, the ship’s first cap­tain.

These Leg­end-class cut­ters will replace the aging 378-foot high-endurance cut­ters that have been in ser­vice since the 1960s, he said.

With larg­er flight decks, Strat­ton fea­tures state-of-the art com­mand and con­trol equip­ment and detec­tion and defense capa­bil­i­ties against chem­i­cal, bio­log­i­cal or radi­o­log­i­cal attack. In addi­tion, advanced sen­sors pro­vide intel­li­gence to paint a com­mon oper­at­ing pic­ture and enhance mar­itime domain aware­ness.

Dempsey said he wel­comed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn about Stratton’s capa­bil­i­ties.

“One of the things we always talk about as ser­vice chiefs is [that] we need to pro­vide the nation as many options as pos­si­ble,” he said. “And get­ting to know what the Coast Guard can bring to the issue of nation­al secu­ri­ty has inter­est­ed me great­ly. So this trip out here just rein­forces that.”

For Papp, who recalled serv­ing on ships 30, 40, and in one case, 60 years old, the new Leg­end- class cut­ters rep­re­sent a major step in the Coast Guard’s recap­i­tal­iza­tion efforts. “For a sailor like me, I love it,” he said.

“We have got just won­der­ful peo­ple … who are capa­ble of get­ting great things out of old assets,” the com­man­dant said. “But at the end of the day, they shouldn’t be forced to have to spend most of their time hold­ing things togeth­er with old assets.

“We can take these great young men and women … and give them great mod­ern tools so they can focus on their job, pro­vid­ing secu­ri­ty and safe­ty and stew­ard­ship of the oceans,” he con­tin­ued. “So I am thrilled to see each one of these as they come off the line, and we can’t get the rest of them out there soon enough, as far as I am con­cerned.”

Cur­rent plans call for all eight nation­al secu­ri­ty cut­ters to be home-port­ed on the West Coast, but Papp said he’s recon­sid­er­ing that deci­sion, and that most like­ly, two will be based on the Atlantic Coast.

“I think there is still a need to have this capa­bil­i­ty on the East Coast, and prob­a­bly it would not be so pru­dent to keep them all in the Pacif­ic,” he said. “And the fact of the mat­ter is, with the Pana­ma Canal, you can get to most of our oper­at­ing areas from places like Charleston [S.C.] or Mia­mi almost quick­er than you can from San Diego.”

While those plans are eval­u­at­ed, Stratton’s 123-per­son crew is busy car­ry­ing out their inau­gur­al cruise up the East Coast before head­ing to their new home port in Alame­da, Calif. The first two nation­al secu­ri­ty cut­ters, Bertholf and Waesche, also are home-port­ed in Alame­da.

Strat­ton will offi­cial­ly enter the Coast Guard’s oper­a­tional fleet after being com­mis­sioned in March 2012.

First Lady Michelle Oba­ma, who chris­tened Strat­ton dur­ing July cer­e­monies in Pascagoula, Miss., praised the strength and tenac­i­ty of its name­sake, Capt. Dorothy Strat­ton, who became the Coast Guard’s first female offi­cer in 1942. Her inspi­ra­tion lives on in today’s Coast Guard, the first lady said, as its mem­bers live up to their mot­to, “Always ready.”

Since leav­ing the Pascagoula ship­yard in ear­ly Octo­ber, Stratton’s crew has been busy learn­ing the ship’s sys­tems and estab­lish­ing new stan­dard oper­at­ing pro­ce­dures so they’re ready to do just that. Between drills and ship­board exer­cis­es, their inau­gur­al cruise includ­ed stops in Pen­saco­la, Fla., and Charleston before they head­ed up the Chesa­peake Bay. Strat­ton is slat­ed to arrive in Baltimore’s Inner Har­bor today.

Coast Guard Pet­ty Offi­cer 3rd Class Jere­my Green, an oper­a­tions spe­cial­ist aboard Strat­ton, said he is still mar­veling that he got the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be part of its first crew.

“It’s pret­ty fan­tas­tic,” he said of Strat­ton. “We’re still learn­ing how to use it to its full poten­tial.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter