Coast Guard to announce plans to make Charleston one of its largest US bases

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The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter James sails past the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston. File/Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake/Provided. Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake

Posted February 20, 2020

The Coast Guard’s top officer will announce Thursday that Charleston will become one of the largest concentrations of ships and guardsman in the nation, growing the economic footprint of the military in the region.

Adm. Karl Schultz is scheduled to detail the news during his annual State of the Coast Guard address at the Port of Charleston.

“The commandant will also announce the future investment in Charleston to support the arrival of the service’s newest military surface assets,” the Coast Guard said in its press advisory.

“Over the next five years, the Coast Guard will homeport multiple new cutters and consolidate its operations along one waterfront, growing Charleston into one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Coast Guard assets and people,” the statement said.

Charleston currently hosts three cutters and more than a thousand service members. It has not yet been announced how large the force footprint will grow here and what bases will be consolidated in that five-year time frame.

“Evolving global complexities and increasing demand for Coast Guard services worldwide necessitates the best people, tools, and performance,” Schultz said in the statement.

“For over two centuries, we have protected, saved, and shielded the American people,” he added. “That’s our promise to the public; a promise made and a promise delivered.”


U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Karl Schultz is expected in Charleston on Thursday. File/U.S. Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer NyxoLyno Cangemi/Provided

Senior Chief Petty Officer NyxoLyno Cangemi

Thursday’s announcement shows how South Carolina’s military presence is expanding rapidly. The Palmetto State has eight major military bases. At least one in 12 jobs in the state can be tied back to the Department of Defense, and South Carolina boasts the ninth-highest military retiree population in the nation.

Bill Bethea is the chairman of the S.C. Military Base Task Force, an initiative by the governor to protect and grow military interests in the state. He confirmed the commandant’s news and said he is excited to see what will happen.

“We’re very pleased they chose South Carolina to grow the size of the Coast Guard presence in Charleston,” he said. “It’s a big plus.”

Schultz is expected to reflect on the organization’s successes over the past year, including the Coast Guard response to Hurricane Dorian, detail the fiscal year 2021 White House budget request and outline the shared vision for the future of the service, according to the press release.

Charleston’s Coast Guard station has been involved in many high-level rescues, drug seizures and other operations, ranging from far-away missions in the Caribbean and the Pacific this past year.

In September, the Golden Ray, a cargo ship carrying automobiles, rolled onto its side as it was leaving a port in Georgia bound for Baltimore. Coast Guard resources from Charleston rushed to the area and assisted in the rescue of four men trapped inside.

In May, Charleston-based Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton seized a fishing boat in the Galapagos Island that had a half-ton of cocaine in the hold. In June, the Hamilton unloaded 26,000 pounds of cocaine and 1,500 pounds of marijuana at a port in Florida.

The other vessels here are the James and the Willow.