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U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 11, 2003

Secretary Ridge Welcomes Back Coast Guard forces

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Collins welcomed back 250 men and women from Coast Guard Patrol Forces who were deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in a ceremony at Nauticus in Norfolk, Virginia, today.

The crews of the Coast Guard Cutter Dallas and four 110-foot patrol boats, two Coast Guard law enforcement detachments, and 45 support and Port Security personnel were greeted by Secretary Ridge, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thomas Collins, and Atlantic Area Commander Vice Adm. James Hull.

Dallas, with its homeport in Charleston, South Carolina, deployed Feb. 8 to work with the Navy's 6th Fleet in the Strait of Gibraltar. In the months leading up to the war with Iraq, the 378-foot high-endurance cutter helped protect U.S. shipping there from terrorist threats. Before the war Dallas moved farther east, and during the first three days of military operations in Iraq was the only surface ship protecting two aircraft carriers north of the Suez Canal. Dallas stood ready to rescue any downed aviators, and the cutter's aircraft warning lights helped fliers home in on Roosevelt's bobbing flight deck.

"The United States Coast Guard remains an invaluable member of the team that works to protect the American people. With pride and gratitude, we thank you for your commitment to the cause of freedom - and for the tenacity with which you live out that commitment - each and everyday," said Secretary Ridge at this afternoon's ceremony.

The four returning 110-foot patrol boats - the Pea Island and Knight Island, from St. Petersburg, Florida, the Bainbridge Island from Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and the Grand Isle, from Gloucester, Massachusetts - were among 11 cutters sent overseas to support military operations in the region.

Vice Admiral James Hull, the Atlantic Area Coast Guard Commander, said he's proud of what his deployed forces accomplished. "Their involvement in force protection, escort duties and maritime interception provided the Sixth Fleet with maximum operational flexibility and highlighted the Coast Guard's role as an armed service," he said. "We are all very proud of them. When called, they were ready, and they performed. They were a small part of a big effort"

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