Monday, September 22, 2008

Guest Blog Post - Chris Van Gorder


I promised an update this evening.

Upon arrival at Rota Naval Base in Spain (south east of Spain) this afternoon our JCOC group was taken to visit the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas which was docked at the port after a several month deployment to the coast of west Africa, the Mediterranean and Black Sea. The Dallas is an older Cutter having been commissioned in 1967 at Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans. A 40 year old warship does not have all of the latest technology and equipment but the crew was proud of their ship and its accomplishments on this cruise. The Dallas is leaving Spain on Wednesday heading home to Charleston, South Carolina but according to its Captain, the Dallas will go back to sea about ten weeks after it arrives home. We don't have very many of these large cutters in the Coast Guard today so they are used constantly.

The Dallas is commanded by Captain Robert Wagner. He is the 23rd commander of the ship. He told us there is only room for one more Captain's name on the plaque in the ship and he does not know what they will do if the Dallas has more than one more Captain in its career (joking, of course). Captain Wagner stated that the Dallas will be in commission for about 5 - 10 more years before it is replaced.

The Dallas is the sixth cutter to bear the name of Alexander Dallas, the Secretary of the Treasury under President James Madison. I know what you were thinking - you thought it was named after the City of Dallas - didn't you?

The Dallas has served well during its long life. It conducted seven combat patrols off the coast of Vietnam during the war. In 1980, the Dallas was the command ship during the Mariel Boatlift, during which 125,000 Cuban refugees set sail for the shore of Florida.

During this most recent cruise, the Dallas delivered over 76,000 pounds of supplies to the Republic of Georgia after the invasion by Russia. The arrival of a U.S. Flagged warship provided a much needed morale boost for the citizens of Georgia.

In June and July, the Dallas patrolled the Gulf of Guinea, West and Central Africa to work with those countries and to assist them in developing skills and capabilities to deal with drugs, piracy and human trafficking. The Dallas then continued its patrol with stops in Spain, Gibralter, Malta, Crete, Bulgaria,Turkey, Romania and of course, the Ukraine and Georgia.

The Dallas was well received by the government and citizens of Georgia. Captain Wagner told us a Russian Frigate came very close to the Dallas as it approached Georgia - and the Frigate had plenty of cameras on board checking out the Dallas' cargo which was placed on the rear flight deck. Fortunately, there was no trouble. This operation was called "Operation Assured Delivery" and after the mission was completed, there were more than 1.6 million Internet hits regarding the event - yes, it was noticed world-wide.

After the briefing, we broke into teams and toured the ship, participated in law enforcement drills, hopped into their fast boat that is used for rescues or by the law enforcement team for boarding. This craft can travel up to 50 miles per hour and can go about 300 miles on a single tank of fuel. It was raining during parts of our visit and that rain can sting when traveling fast in the small boat - but it was fun, nonetheless.

We also observed and participated in a fire/damage control demonstration among other activities.

The crew was in very good humor and realized they made some history on this cruise. They are heading home and are all excited.

Air Force General David Cotton who has joined us for this trip and Allison Barber - Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs (also on this trip) were piped aboard when we arrived and our entire JCOC were piped ashore when we left after an exciting day.

The adventure and experience continues.


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