The Coast Guard Cutter Washington Island (WPB 1331), a 110-foot Island Class patrol boat, was decommissioned after nearly 30 years of service as part of recapitalization efforts during a ceremony at Naval Base Guam, Wednesday.
Rear Adm. Kevin E. Lunday, commander, Coast Guard 14th District presided over the ceremony. Washington’s years of service included numerous law enforcement cases, safety and security enforcement patrols, dignitary and Naval security operations, and a variety of noteworthy rescues at sea.
“The ship and its crews have been vital to building and maintaining relationships here with our partners and the people of Oceania also known as the Blue Pacific,” said Lt. Grant Rutter, commanding officer of Washington. “We’ve been an integral part of the Coast Guard’s long-term commitment to Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands through service, multi-national exercises, joint search-and-rescue, and law enforcement efforts, hosting shipriders, and conducting training to build proficiency. I am proud of this crew and the hands-on work they’ve done here for our noble cause.”
Washington entered commission-special status in a ceremony held at Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, Louisiana, June 9, 1989, and formal commissioning took place in Honolulu Oct. 6 of the same year. The cutter takes its name from Washington Island, Wisconsin, located in Lake Michigan and is the second cutter to bear the name of our first president. The first, USRC (U.S. Revenue Cutter) Washington, performed nobly during the Second Seminole War from 1835-1837 and began the long tradition of excellence still embodied by the ship and crew today. The ship’s motto is “our cause is noble.”
Washington’s crew supports multi-mission operations throughout Sector Guam’s vast area of responsibility. This area consists of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) surrounding Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Additionally, they conduct international missions throughout the waters of the Republic of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia, specifically conducting search and rescue response missions and maritime law enforcement operations. Most recently, they patrolled Palau’s EEZ as part of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency Operation Kurukuru, a coordinated maritime surveillance operation. The goal of the annual operation is to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Washington’s long-term efforts to improve maritime governance within the region have advanced a rules-based order and improved freedom of navigation.
Some of the crew will remain permanently stationed in Guam and crew the Fast Response Cutters. The first of three, the USCGC Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) is due to arrive in mid-2020.
Washington is one of the 49 Island Class cutters built to replace the 95-foot Cape Class cutters. With a 16 to 18-person mixed-gender crew and an operating range exceeding 2,300 miles, it has been a successful platform to conduct search and rescue response, ports waterways and coastal security operations, and to enforce the laws and treaties of the United States. The U.S. State Department is coordinating the transfer of Washington through the Foreign Assistance Act. This act allows the transfer of excess defense articles as a grant to friendly, foreign governments.