Asset, infrastructure upgrades come slowly to busy Ninth District
By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Associate Editor
Home to nearly 2,000 active-duty
personnel and another 3,000 Coast
Guard auxiliary members, the district also has specific expertise in
shallow water operations and units
have been called on to respond to
floods and other environmental
events throughout the country.
“Any job has challenges, but
there are opportunities as well,” said
Cmdr. Dave Beck, chief of the district’s enforcement branch, referring
to the difficulty of doing his mission
set with a mixture of old and new
assets and infrastructure.
District leaders acknowledge that
while there is a need for more resources — upgrades to
boat stations and new assets such as the 45-foot
Response Boat-Medium are at the top of their wish list —
budget restrictions and resource allotment Coast Guard-wide limit how quickly improvements can be made.
“Our units only have so many people,” Beck said.
And when the district has received new assets,
sometimes they actually were not new at all.
For the past several winters, the Coast Guard has
temporarily assigned one of the First District’s Bay-class icebreaking tugs to the Great Lakes to assist the
Ninth District’s crews with domestic icebreaking operations. However, these seasonal deployments were not
ideal due to the high cost, the operational hours lost in
transit, and the toll on personal lives of the First
District crew members and their families.
So the cutter, the 140-foot Morro Bay, was permanently transferred to the Ninth District in June. Morro
Bay was commissioned in 1981, decommissioned in
1998 and brought back into action after 9/11 terrorist
attacks because the service wanted to have additional
resources to take on an expanding mission set.
As Lt. Cmdr. Matt ten Berge, head of domestic icebreaking at the Ninth District, pointed to the cutter
The Ninth District is tasked with keeping the Great Lakes waters
safe and secure despite not always having the most advanced
technology and assets.
■ The 140-foot icebreaking tug Morro Bay was transferred to
the Ninth District in June.
■ Rescue 21 became fully operational in all the Great Lakes in 2012.
■ The Coast Guard also completed construction of a 25,000-
square-foot operations and administration building in Cleveland
Semper Paratus — Always Ready. The U.S. Coast Guard embraces and embodies that motto every day. In recent years, that has
meant being ready to respond, ready to execute an
increasing mission set, with fewer personnel and less-than-optimal equipment.
Doing more with less has been something with which
the service has become accustomed. Those serving in
the Coast Guard’s Ninth District are no exception.
The Ninth District’s area of operations includes
10,900 miles of U.S. and Canadian shoreline and cities
such as Toronto, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and
Milwaukee. Depending on the season, its missions can
include search and rescue, law enforcement, recreational boating safety, ice operations, aids to navigation, training and maintenance, and marine safety and
Along with conducting the service’s statutory homeland security patrols and missions — the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) oversees the Coast Guard —
the district assists local jurisdictions with special events,
such as the launch of USS Freedom, U.S. Navy’s first
Littoral Combat Ship, in Marinette, Wis., tall ship festivals, and major fireworks displays and festivals.