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US Coast Guard Sailors Lend a Hand in Vallarta

Published Feb 29, 2012, 4:30pm -

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The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast was in port for three days last week not only for a bit of rest and relaxation after two months at sea, but also to assist the local Navy League Council in refurbishing a local retirement home and planting a vegetable garden for the residents’ use. The crew also made time to conduct ship tours for interested members of the Navy League and their guests. The Steadfast has visited Puerto Vallarta countless times over the past twenty years, each time outdoing themselves in helping local charitable and civic organizations.

The Steadfast is a Medium-Endurance Cutter operating out of Warrenton, Oregon. It’s 210 feet long, weighs 1,020 tons, and has a complement of about 75 officers and enlisted personnel. Steadfast has an illustrious record since commissioning in 1968. They’ve completed over 350 search and rescue operations, and interdicted over 1.6 million pounds of marijuana and 28 thousand pounds of cocaine. This has earned them the nickname “El Tiburon Blanco” or White Shark from Colombian drug smugglers for being such a nemesis to their illegal drug operations. Steadfast crew members take great pride in this nickname and use it on their t-shirts, stationery and just about every other item of ship merchandise.

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The work project (COMREL or Community Relations) at the Patronato Asilo San Juan A.C. was extremely successful on all fronts. 31 sailors from the Steadfast volunteered (40% of the crew – a record no doubt), led by Ensign Derek Puzzolo and about 10 Navy League and American Legion volunteers. Everyone was extremely impressed with the facility and the high quality of service and care for its 18 residents. Previous COMRELS have been conducted at this facility by other visiting Navy and Coast Guard ships, also with great results. It’s a city jewel well worth the support and commitment of the community. 

After the COMREL the sailors were treated to a typical Mexican lunch at Mauricio’s Restaurant in Las Juntas. The perfect end to a perfect morning.

The following day the Steadfast opened its gangway to tours of the ship for members of the Navy League and guests. Two very special guests were World War II veterans Paul Aaron of the Coast Guard and Ken Solom of the Navy. Conducting the tours was Ensign Jermaine Hernandez, a recent graduate of the Coast Guard Academy who’s on his first tour of duty. The distinguished veterans were given full respect and honors, including a piping aboard.

Our thanks go out to the Steadfast for another memorable visit to what’s known in the Navy and Coast Guard as the friendliest port city in all of Mexico.

By way of background, the Navy League is dedicated to welcoming Navy and Coast Guard ships from all nations, conducting COMRELS to paint and repair schools and other non-profit and public facilities, transporting donated medical supplies from the U.S. and Canada aboard visiting ships, and running the local Toys for Tots program. Plus of course they have an active social program! To join this outstanding civic and charitable organization, contact Bill Clark at (322) 222-3616 or via email at clarkbill@earthlink.net. No prior military experience is required, only an interest in helping the less advantaged citizens of our region. Visit their website at www.vallartanavyleague.org

Source: Jerry Lafferty


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