The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball (WMSL 756) passes by Diamond Head as it heads to Honolulu on Aug. 16, 2019.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball (WMSL 756) passes by Diamond Head as it heads to Honolulu on Aug. 16, 2019. (Sherri Eng/U.S. Coast Guard)

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The Honolulu-based Coast Guard National Security Cutter CGC Kimball returned home Wednesday from an 85-day deployment that saw it assisting with Maui fire relief efforts and monitoring fisheries in the Arctic Circle.

The Kimball left Honolulu Harbor on Aug. 8 bound for the Aleutian Islands, but later that evening received a report of people in the water attempting to flee the burning town of Lahaina. The Coast Guard redirected the cutter to operations off Maui, where it became the command ship for Coast Guard operations for three days.

The Kimball’s crew launched two small boats and deployed the cutter’s onboard surveillance drone. Working with Coast Guard Station Maui, CGC Joseph Gerczak and helicopters from Air Station Barbers Point, they collectively searched 790 square nautical miles, saved 17 people and assisted approximately 40 survivors ashore, according to a news release from Coast Guard District 14.

After being relieved by CGC Juniper, the Kimball’s crew continued north. The vessel joined Operation Alaskan Groundfish Enforcer, where its crew conducted 10 boardings on fishing vessels in the Bering Sea and issued eight citations and “one termination for gross violation of U.S. and international regulations.” The Kimball escorted the fishing vessel back to the nearest port and ensured it corrected its discrepancies.

While up north, the Kimball was diverted again upon receiving intelligence of a Russian military exercise within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone near American fishermen. In recent years American fishermen have reported increasingly frequent interactions with Russian warships and military aircraft in the Northern Pacific and Arctic—occasionally aggressive ones.

The “Kimball’s presence ensured the safety of 23 mariners while they worked within the U.S. EEZ near Russian warships as part of Operation Frontier Sentinel, “ the Coast Guard said in its news release.

During a stop in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, the Kimball’s crew gave local residents of the island community a tour of the cutter and helped the Museum of the Aleutians in relocating fragile gray whale fossils for a new exhibit.

Capt. Bob Kinsey, the Kimball’s commanding officer said that his crew’s “diversity of skill “ allowed them to “provide tangible lifesaving results, from responding to the tragic fires in Maui to providing an influential presence in the Chukchi Sea and American Arctic to preserving the livelihoods of our Bering Sea fishermen through the enforcement of federal safety and living marine resources laws.”

Commissioned in 2019, the Kimball is the Coast Guard’s seventh national security cutter, one of the largest vessels in the Coast Guard’s fleet. It’s one of two in Hawaii, and this summer completed its first period of dry-dock maintenance in Honolulu at a newly completed facility run by Pacific Shipyards International.

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