MAYPORT, Fla. -- It's a first for Naval Station Mayport. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Valiant is now permanently assigned to the base. The ship is 210 feet long and was commissioned back in 1967 in Galveston, Texas.
Commander Stephen Burdian says "Then we moved over to Miami in 1994. Since then we had a lot of mass migrations out of Cuba and out of Haiti. She's been doing counter-narcotics interdictions for a very long time. As a matter of fact on the last patrol we had a significant bust of $35 million worth of cocaine."
But now that history is anchored to the First Coast. Commander Burdian adds, "This is the day we've been waiting for." Seventy-six crew members will now call Jacksonville home. It's a crew of officers and enlisted personnel. Some of them like Burdian already called Jacksonville home.
Petty Officer 1st Class, Adam Goad, is a crew member. He says, "It feels like the end of a long journey. I've been in Miami since the end of January and I've just been waiting for this moment."
Petty Officer Darren Deason says "I was born and raised in Jacksonville from Mandarin - went to Wolfson High School - graduated 2006. This is home - this has been a long time in the making."
"The reason why I came here was for drug interdiction. I felt I could make a direct impact on my hometown which is Jacksonville - and just to be here is amazing. It really is," Officer Deason added.
Burdian says, "She's got a proud history. We've got many chapters left on board to write."
Crews will be busy doing routine maintenance on the ship for the next few months. The Valiant heads back out to sea in October. It operates in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. The cutter's missions include search and rescue; maritime law enforcement; marine environmental protection; defense readiness; and ports, waterways, and coastal security.
Tammie Fields, First Coast News