As a result of the partial government shutdown, members of the U.S. Coast Guard are now working without paychecks. According to a recent Facebook post from current Coast Guard commandant Admiral Karl Schultz, the Coasties “have not, and will not, be forgotten.” Still, no one can say for sure when the debate around government funding will be resolved.
“While our Coast Guard workforce is deployed, there are loved ones at home reviewing family finances, researching how to get support, and weighing childcare options—they are holding down the fort,” Schultz wrote on Facebook. “Please know that we are doing everything we can to support and advocate for you while your loved one stands the watch.”
Still, the Coast Guard remains on watch, responding to emergencies, enforcing laws, and ensuring our nation’s waterways remain navigable. I recently met with the Coasties of District 8 in New Orleans, and I found the staff in high spirits and just as dedicated to the mission as they’d ever been. Here are a few cases the Coast Guard has responded to since the shutdown began.
Medevac: Just after midnight on Tuesday, January 15, the fishing vessel (f/v) Fortuna, located more than 40 miles northwest of Key West, radioed for help. The crew of the f/v Fortuna told the Coast Guard that one of the crew members, a 42-year-old male, was having chest pains and was having difficulty breathing. The crew feared he might be having a heart attack. Coasties standing watch at Coast Guard Sector Key West immediately dispatched a 33-foot Special Purpose Craft—Law Enforcement to the scene to provide aid and evacuate the patient. The boat crew rendezvoused with the f/v Fortuna and safely evacuated the patient to shore where he was then taken to a nearby hospital for further treatment.
Interdiction: Working hand in hand with both Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Coast Guard interdicted a 46-foot sport fisher boat after it had been spotted by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Bernard C Webber running without lights on. The Cutter dispatched a boarding team who intercepted the suspicious craft. Once on board, Coasties discovered a Bahamian citizen who authorities suspect was attempting to smuggle three people into the United States. After recovering the three migrants, the Coast Guard boarding officers found seven kilograms of cocaine aboard. The suspect was arrested and handed off to CBP officers.
Rescue: On Wednesday, January 9, a 30-foot vessel capsized off the coast of the Florida Keys, sending Sean Johnson, Craig Zetwick, and Ken Kuhfuss into the water. One of the victims was able to radio for help, and the Coast Guard dispatched a 45-foot Response Boat—Medium from Key West. Once on scene, the Coasties found the three men hanging onto the hull of their capsized vessel. Although one man had on a life vest, the other two did not. Coasties swiftly rescued the men—none of whom had any serious injuries—and returned them safely to shore.