ATLANTIC BEACH -- For his first assignment with the Coast Guard, Seaman Apprentice Tanner Lebret had the opportunity to be a part of a legacy of service as a member of the final crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Cushing.
Lebret will head to Station Emerald Isle to continue his Coast Guard service but said he was an honor to be a member of the long line of crews aboard the Cushing during the vessel's nearly 30 years of service.
"Being my first year in the Coast Guard and being able to be a part of a decommissioning has been great," Lebret said following Wednesday's ceremony at Coast Guard Sector Field Office Fort Macon.
A Decommissioning Ceremony was held for both the Cushing and Coast Guard Cutter Nantucket, recognizing the retirement of the two vessels from active service and honoring the crews who served aboard each over the years.
"They've always been ready to accomplish their mission wherever and whenever they've been called upon," said Rear Adm. Meredith Austin, commander of the Coast Guard Fifth District.
Cushing, which was commissioned on Dec. 1, 1988, had moved from a homeport in San Juan, Puerto Rico to Atlantic Beach in March 2015.
While built primarily for law enforcement, Cushing like Nantucket have tackled a variety of missions, including law enforcement and drug interdiction; fisheries enforcement; search and rescue cases; and efforts with partner agencies to release rehabilitated sea turtles.
For a native of Arizona, Lebret said the sea turtle releases were an experience to remember.
"We're always ready to go. There's never a dull moment," Lebret said.
It was a bittersweet day as the playing of Taps and the retiring of flags marked the end of an era for the cutter fleet but there was a common theme of thanks as the commanding officers for each the Cushing and Nantucket.
Lt. Andrew Norberg, final commanding officer for the Nantucket, said he saw great dedication and personal sacrifice among his crew.
"The Nantucket and her crews have given fantastic service to their country," Norberg said.
Lt. Mario Gil, who was commanding officer of Cushing in the final days, said the decommissioning was a celebration of a "great ship and the crews who have sustained her over the years."
Nantucket was commissioned in 1987 and was relocated to Atlantic Beach in October 2014 after being stationed in Key West, Miami, Puerto Rico, and St. Petersburg.
For Gil personally, his assignment with Cushing was one of his most challenging but the most rewarding in his career to date.
"The crew of the Cushing is one of the finest I've ever served with," he said.
Bob and Sharon White of Morehead City attended the ceremony to show their support.
Bob White, a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, got to know the crew of the Cushing through a former neighbor who was a crew member.
He served as a one-day cook for the crew when they traveled to the Azalea Festival and he and his wife played Mr. and Mrs. Claus for the Cushing crew and families for a Christmas Party.
It's a relationship the Whites have enjoyed.
"Coast Guard people are very giving, very humble," he said.
A new larger fast-response cutter will be headed to Atlantic Beach next year.