The Coast Guard’s three newest Fast Response Cutters were commissioned Thursday during a ceremony presided over by Adm. Karl Schultz, the Coast Guard’s commandant. The Coast Guard Cutters Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139), Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) and Frederick Hatch (WPC 1143) were commissioned during a rare triple-commissioning ceremony at their new homeport at Coast Guard Forces Micronesia Sector Guam. Like the 30-year old Island-class patrol boats before them, they will support the people of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and U.S. international partners throughout Oceania. The FRCs represent the Coast Guard’s commitment to modernizing service assets to address the increasingly complex global Maritime Transportation System.
The Coast Guard already has a well established presence within the region due to its bilateral shiprider agreements with Pacific Island Forum countries. These shiprider agreements allow partnering nations’ defense and law enforcement officers to go aboard Coast Guard vessels to observe, board and search vessels suspected of violating laws or regulations within their exclusive economic zones. By embarking shipriders, Coast Guard crews are able to support allies in the region and work towards expanding security by addressing regional challenges to peace, prosperity, and social inclusion. The retention of crewmembers from these invaluable missions means the lessons learned from joint operations will carry over to the new FRCs, ensuring goodwill developed by past Coast Guard assets will remain applicable.
The Sentinel-class cutter, also known as Fast Response Cutter due to its program name, is part of the United States Coast Guard’s Deepwater program. At 154 feet (46.8 m) it is similar to, but larger than the 123-foot (37 m) lengthened 1980s-era Island-class patrol boats that it replaces. Up to 58 vessels are to be built by the Louisiana-based firm Bollinger Shipyards, using a design from the Netherlands-based Damen Group, with the Sentinel design based on the company’s Damen Stan 4708 patrol vessel. The Department of Homeland Security’s budget proposal to Congress, for the Coast Guard, for 2021, stated that, in addition to 58 vessels to serve the Continental US, they requested an additional six vessels for its portion of Patrol Forces South West Asia.
Named after Coast Guard enlisted heroes, FRCs are equipped with advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems and boast a greater range and endurance. These advanced capabilities greatly improve the Coast Guard’s ability to conduct missions ranging from search and rescue to national defense while also contributing to joint operations between the United States and its regional partners as they work towards common goals such as the prevention of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Each FRC has a standard 24-person crew. This brings over 70 new Coast Guard members to Guam, along with their family members. Prior to the FRCs’ arrival, the Coast Guard presence on Guam was composed of approximately 250 active duty personnel and 40 reservists.