Coast Guard Cutter Bear Returns to Portsmouth After Hurricane Relief
Portsmouth, Va. — The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Bear returned to their homeport in Portsmouth, Va., on Oct. 28, after a 28-day deployment providing hurricane relief in Puerto Rico and enforcing fisheries laws on the way home, the Coast Guard said in a release.
Bear left Portsmouth Oct. 1 and set course for San Juan to take part in a mission as one of more than 15 Coast Guard assets sent to assist with delivering supplies, rebuilding infrastructure and ensuring safety of life at sea in the wake of the devastation left by Hurricane Maria.
Bear transported more than 40,000 pounds of disaster relief supplies to the hurricane-stricken island, bringing vital food, shelter and water to those in need.
In addition to bringing supplies to help fellow Coast Guard members continue recovery efforts in San Juan and Borinquen, Bear’s crew transported pallets of food and water collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Additionally, the cutter carried supplies for Homeland Security Investigations agents in Puerto Rico as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s united coordination to provide critical relief supplies to the island.
This mission hit close to home for several crew members who have family in Puerto Rico that experienced first-hand the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Maria Perez Bas spent most of her childhood growing up on the island where her family still lives today. Perez Bas said her mother, who lives in Luquillo, lacks electricity and cell phone service. Many roads around her remain blocked, leaving her in near-total isolation from the outside world.
Fireman Joseph Mancina, another crew member aboard Bear, also has family members on the island. He, along with other crew members, took pride in the fact that they delivered supplies such as electrical generators, baby formula and other essential items to their loved ones.
Despite the personal toll the storm took on many crew members, they remain positive and eager to serve their fellow Americans.
“I’m excited to be a part of these relief efforts because it’s what I joined the Coast Guard to do — to help people in need,” said Seaman Mark Smith, a Bear crew member.
The cutter was only one prong of the Coast Guard’s massive response to assist the areas impacted by Hurricane Maria. The optimism and selflessness of the crew combined with interagency support show how a crisis can bring out the best in people.
Following their relief efforts in Puerto Rico, the mission was not yet complete for Bear’s crew. After offloading supplies, the cutter steamed north to resume its scheduled fisheries patrol. Boarding officers and crew performed the missions of ensuring maritime safety and protecting the United States’ living marine resources by enforcing domestic and international fisheries laws.
Bear’s boarding officers worked tirelessly to protect safety of life at sea, performing numerous inspections on commercial and recreational fishing vessels and inspecting over 5,000 pounds of fish.
Bear returned to Portsmouth after having patrolled over 2,000 miles of coastline and having helped to police, preserve and protect commercial fisheries valued at more than $49 million to local economies.