Saturday, December 30, 2006

Midgett Celebrates Christmas at Sea

U.S. Coast Guard | PA2 Marianna O'Leary | December 27, 2006

USCGC MIDGETT, At Sea - There's something big missing from Seattle's Pier 36 this holiday season.

The 178 men and women stationed aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Midgett have joined ranks with the thousands of deployed military personnel. Midgett and her crew will spend their holidays overseas conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

"As part of the Armed Forces of the United States, we are working with coalition forces to provide our expertise with maritime security operations as part of a constant presence [here]," said Capt. E. L. Alexander, commanding officer of Midgett. "The Coast Guard's strength lies in our ability to provide boots on deck 24-7 for boardings at sea," he continued.

Maritime Security Operations help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

Midgett is one of many U.S. and coalition ships supporting Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, which conducts MSO in the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, Red Sea and Indian Ocean. CTF 150 also supports Operation Enduring Freedom.

While standing long watches and keeping their ship ready to perform at the high level demanded by the mission at hand, Midgett's crew has somehow found time to add an air of holiday cheer to the decks of the steel ship so far from home. Along with snowflakes and lights hung from passageways, a door-decorating contest has ensued with snowmen making appearances down passageways and family photos hanging off paper Christmas trees. The ship may not be home for the holidays but a cheer is definitely in the air.

"I've been in the Coast Guard for six years and this is the first time I've been away from home during Christmas," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Garvey, a storekeeper aboard Midgett from Springfield, Mass. "I think it's much harder on my parents than for me but I communicate each and every day via email with them and they know it's a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. I'm coping with being gone this Christmas by surrounding myself with laughter and positive energy and placing my trust in God to keep us safe and secure," said Garvey.

Through the United Service Organizations (USO) Care package program and the generosity of the American public, bags and boxes of donated holiday gifts and holiday treats began arriving onboard in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The USO gifts were quickly squirreled away by the ship's officers to the wardroom where they were wrapped in anticipation for Christmas and other holiday gift-giving to the crew.

Along with fuel and food stores via at-sea replenishment, a few Christmas trees was brought aboard Dec. 20 and set up on the mess deck.

"We are wrapping gifts, making candy and gingerbread houses and preparing the choir for Christmas carols and other activities to bring the holidays aboard Midgett," said Alexander. "You have not experienced Christmas at sea until you see a Christmas tree being hi-lined over from one ship to another."

In a letter home to the friends and family members of Midgett's crew, the captain expressed his thoughts on being away during the holidays. "No one out here, either at sea or on the ground truly wants to be away from home on Christmas. I'm proud of each and every one of these crew members. They represent the best of America as do you (the families) at home keeping everything running until our return," said Alexander.

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