US Coast Guard commissions second Hawaii-based Sentinel-class cutter

The US Coast Guard commissioned its second Hawaii-based  Sentinel-class cutter in a March 9 ceremony at Coast Guard Base Honolulu.

The commissioning ceremony for USCGC Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) was presided over Vice Adm. Fred M. Midgette, commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area.

The cutter’s sponsor Stella Gerczak, who is Joseph Gerczak’s sister, was also in attendance at the ceremony.

“We are excited to continue the legacy of selfless service to the American people established by Signalman 3rd Class Joseph Gerczak by conducting various Coast Guard missions, including search and rescue, law enforcement and maritime safety and security in and around the Hawaiian Islands,” said Lt. Colin McKee, commanding officer of the Joseph Gerczak.

The Joseph Gerczak is the second of three Honolulu-based FRCs that will primarily serve the main Hawaiian Islands.

The cutter’s namesake died while defending USS LST-66 from Japanese bombers during an American assault on Borgen Bay in New Britain, Papua New Guinea, Dec. 26, 1943. Gerczak was the first to react when the enemy bombing began and shot down two of the attackers before shrapnel from an explosion fatally wounded him. By his expert marksmanship, unwavering perseverance, and calm courage in the face of tremendous odds, he contributed to the success of this and previous assault and reinforcement landings during the New Guinea Campaign.

The Purple Heart and the Silver Star were awarded to him posthumously. The crew of LST-66 received the Presidential Unit Commendation for their actions in the battle.

The Coast Guard is acquiring 58 FRCs to replace the 110-foot Island-class patrol boats. The FRCs are designed for missions including search and rescue; fisheries enforcement; drug and migrant interdiction; ports, waterways and coastal security; and national defense. The cutters are designed to patrol coastal regions and feature advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance equipment, including the ability to launch and recover standardized small boats from the stern.

Coast Guard Base Honolulu will be operating the three cutters by the spring of 2019.