Coast Guard returns to Gulfport's waterfront

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The new Coast Guard Station Gulfport is being called a symbol of hope in a time of distress.  The complex was battered by both Katrina and Gustav.  Yet, the Coast Guard proved on Friday just how resilient it is.

The pageantry at Coast Guard Station Gulfport was so different than the decay that Admiral Thad Allen saw in the wake of Katrina.

"It was an extraordinary view that took my breath away," Adm. Allen remembered thinking when he first arrived on the coast.

Admiral Allen was here shortly after the storm to witness for himself the destruction of the Coast Guard's Gulfport home.

"But what I also saw was the grit of this community," he told guests at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Coast Guard headquarters.  "The resilience of this community.  The hard work and effort that was immediately apparent to right the ship as it were, to get this part of the gulf back in operation."

That grit and determination are evident in the new building that Brandt Martin will oversee.

"It's unbelievable," the Gulfport commander said, noting that it provides "stability for my crew."

Since the hurricane, Coast Guard boats have docked next to their longtime home.  But the Coast Guard's logistics team has been housed in offices three miles inland.

"But now to have everything under foot is just so much more efficient to streamline," Martin said.

Leaders like Congressman Gene Taylor helped make Friday's ribbon cutting possible.  Taylor said rebuilding Coast Guard Station Gulfport at its old location was critical, because this site gave Coast Guard boats instant access to Gulfport's shipping channel.

"This is a really great day.  Great investment of our nation in the Coast Guard," the congressman said.

On the first floor of the new complex is the flag pulled from the Coast Guard's rubble a day after Katrina made landfall.  It's there to remind everybody of the Coast Guard's strength, and its commitment to Gulfport.

"I was truly awestruck to have been down here and to observed the organizational genes of this community that kicked in, the DNA of these people who live on the coast, the watermen, the people who depend on the coast for a living to do the things they did that brought us to where we are today," the admiral said.

"I know there's a lot of work still yet to be done.  But you can be really rightfully proud for what you've done here," said Adm. Allen.

Coast Guard Station Gulfport has a crew of 50 full and part time sailors, and 60 Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.