The Coast Guard has decommissioned two patrol boats that have been safeguarding the waters of the Persian Gulf since 2003.
The 110-foot Island-class patrol boats Aquidneck and Adak were decommissioned in a ceremony at Naval Support Activity Bahrain on June 15. It marked the end of an overseas deployment that began Jan. 29, 2003, when the two were loaded, along with several others, onto a Military Sealift Command ship in Norfolk, Virginia, for transit to the Persian Gulf region.
Before they were forward deployed to Bahrain, Aquidneck was homeported in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, and Adak in Sandy Hook, New Jersey.
"Thank you to every single crew member who has ever served aboard Aquidneck and Adak, from the plank owners to the final crew and all the crews in between," said Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area commander, during the ceremony. "You selflessly volunteered to deploy from your family, friends and home, accepting the inherent risks and adversities to serve your country. You built a legacy for these two cutters that will not soon be forgotten."
The boats spent the last 18 years conducting operations in the Persian Gulf, with their crews conducting maritime patrol operations and safeguarding oil terminals at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom and ensuring the flow of commerce alongside U.S. Navy vessels.
In 1994, Adak took part in Operation Able Vigil, rescuing Cubans from makeshift vessels during a mass migration effort; in 1996, it responded to the crash of TWA Flight 800 in New York, retrieving bodies and belongings.
On Sept. 11, 2001, it was one of the first vessels to arrive in New York Harbor, acting as on-scene commander to coordinate the evacuation of more than 500,000 people.
Aquidneck had a strong history of search and rescue and counter-drug operations off the Atlantic Coast before deploying to Bahrain.
They have been replaced by two of the service's newest vessels, the Sentinel-class fast response cutters Charles Moulthrope and Robert Goldman, which arrived in Bahrain on May 25.
Eventually, the remaining Island-class cutters assigned to Task Force 55, U.S. 5th Fleet -- Monomoy, Maui, Baranof and Wrangell -- also will be replaced with Sentinel-class vessels.
The Adak and Aquidneck are slated to be sold to Indonesia under the Excess Defense Articles program. But a nonprofit group, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Adak Historical Society, has been petitioning the federal government to donate the vessel to be operated as a museum.
James Judge, a former Coast Guardsman who spent 13 months aboard the Adak during the Iraq War, serves as president of the society.
"We have a plan in place to make the USCGC Adak into a museum to showcase Coast Guard history and to serve as a 9-11 memorial," Judge wrote in a Change.org petition that has garnered more than 11,700 signatures. "Additionally, the ship will serve as an education platform for youth in the Tampa Bay area. It will also make trips each year to various port cities around the U.S. to showcase Coast Guard history."
The group's efforts have won the support of several lawmakers, including Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla.; Charlie Crist, D-Fla.; and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., who wrote President Joe Biden to express support for retaining the vessel and preserving it as a museum.
"We believe that the Adak should be preserved for its historical significance," they wrote. "The men and women who served on the Adak displayed true heroism, and we believe that this sale to Indonesia fails to honor their service."
The New York Post reported June 14 that the State Department plans to continue with the sale.
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.