Coast Guard Cutter Kiska, Crew Return to Home Port
The United States Coast Guard Cutter Kiska’s return to home port in Hilo on Friday was more than just a homecoming for the ship.
About 19 crew members assigned to the Kiska also returned home after being away since the beginning of May while the Kiska was in dry dock receiving scheduled and necessary repairs on Oahu.
Big Island Now got an exclusive look at the homecoming.
Just before 8 a.m. Friday, the Kiska docked at the Port of Hilo, where several families of crew members waited for their loved ones, who had been away for over 120 days.
“It’s difficult to have him gone so long, but you kind of know what you sign up for when you marry someone in the military,” said Joylynn Williams, wife of Kiska Food Specialist Jarod Williams. “They’re serving the country, they’re serving people and you have to think of the greater goal. It’s still difficult and you miss them, but you try keep your spirits up. We try to skype and just keeping in good communication.”
There wasn’t always time for Skype and constant communication, however, as Kiska crew members spent their time on Oahu busy working on the ship and training.
Lieutenant Kevin Trujillo, Commanding Officer of Kiska, said that during a dry dock, contractors complete a given set of work items, but that crew members also hold responsibility for other maintenance operations.
“The crew is in charge of making sure repair work is completed correctly. We have to have a supervisor or someone watching the dry dock contractors complete their work. We want to make sure they complete the work correctly and safely, and we want to make sure they are not damaging items on the ship,” said Lieutenant Trujillo. “The contractors come on board, but they are not doing the full renovation of the ship. They only have certain work predetermined. Anything outside of that scope of work is in our hands.”
In addition to mechanical operations that fall into Kiska’s crew responsibilities, the crew used the dry dock time to complete non-mechanical tasks, updating various areas in the galley, cooking supplies, and outfitting the ship.
Updates and maintenance were not the only priority of the crew. “During that time, we also have to maintain training, even off ship,” Lieutenant Trujillo said.
Online and team training are among two of the additional items that kept the entire crew on Oahu throughout the duration of the dry dock.
During the dry dock period, Boatswain’s Mate I Clinton Davis and his wife, Jolene Davis, had the couple’s fourth child, and second who was born in Hawai’i.
“I was able to come back down here for the birth,” Boatswain’s Mate I Davis said. “It’s great to be home now, to be back with my wife and the kids. It’s hard to be away especially without family support for them out here. I’m thankful for her [Jolene]. She really managed everything while I was away. She’s really great.”
Jolene Davis said the couple’s young children don’t understand time frame, so the time away from their father was difficult.
“You tell them a week or a month and they don’t understand the difference, they’re just like ‘why is daddy not home,’” Jolene Davis said. “They’re good kids they kept busy with swimming and gymnastics and we all just kept busy on the beach. They’re troopers. They stuck it out.”
Despite the difficulty of being away from their families, Lieutenant Trujillo noted that knowing their overall purpose and the importance of a dry dock period helped ease the difficulty of being away.
“There is nothing more rewarding than the crew waking up at midnight, getting underway in eight to ten foot seas to find a vessel in distress, getting that person on board and that look that they give you is like ‘you just saved my life,’” said Lieutenant Trujillo. “There is nothing more rewarding for the crew than to see that after all the training hours that we’ve put in, hours that we’ve done at dry dock to make sure that our machinery and our ship is working correctly, and all those hours they we’re away from family. It comes down to that one minute that you interact with someone to save them off their ship that is sinking. That’s worth it right there.”
The Coast Guard Cutter Kiska is one of four cutters in Hawai’i and one of two 110 foot patrol boats. Kiska is the only patrol boat on a neighbor island. In addition to conducting Search and Rescue missions, the Kiska and crew also work to protect Ports, Waterways, and conduct Coastal Security; Maritime Law Enforcement; and Living Marine Resources Protection.