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Press Release | July 27, 2023

Faces of Forces Micronesia: EM1 Ikaika Ruiz

U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam

A Gentle Ripple: Life Beneath the Waves and the Brush
By CWO Sara Muir

When it comes to the USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) crew, the jubilant cry of "Fish on!" frequently pierces the salty sea air. With a host of passionate anglers aboard, the ship's menu often features fresh Wahoo and Tuna - gifts of the generous Pacific.

Petty Officer 1st Class Ikaika Ruiz, affectionately known as Kai, serves as a quiet heartbeat of this robust crew. A proud Hawaiian, consummate fisherman, doting father, steadfast electrician's mate, and certified cutterman, Kai's presence aboard the Oliver Henry is multifaceted and deeply valued. His meticulous work as an electrician's mate is vital to the seamless operation of the ship's electrical and engineering systems, which in turn ensures the safety and security of the ship and crew.

Outside of his professional commitments, Kai's passions lie in the serenity of the ocean and the creative lure of art. He inherited a love for fishing from his father and uncles in Hawaii, honing his skills with a rod, reel, and speargun over time. This love transcends leisure and sustenance; fishing for Kai is a cultural commitment, a tribute to his island heritage. Together with his fellow crew members, Kai immerses himself in the local cultures during port calls throughout the Pacific, creating meaningful connections with local fishermen and sharing experiences and stories in a spirit of mutual respect and camaraderie.

Creativity complements Kai's prowess at sea, particularly in the Japanese art form of Gyotaku - creating prints using actual fish. Intrigued by the intricate process and the art's ability to immortalize the essence of each catch, Kai has spent the last year perfecting his Gyotaku technique. His works showcase the unique characteristics of each fish. 

"Every fish is different; some soak up the ink, and others don't. Some have delicate fins and challenging shapes," Ruiz said. "No two fish or two prints are the same."

His admiration for Gyotaku isn't just about the aesthetic appeal but also the honesty it brings to his craft. "I like the art of it, and it is a way to honor the catch. You also can't lie about the size," he remarks with a sense of pride and respect for his practice.

Among his many prints, one holds a special place in Kai's heart. "I am most proud of the Barramundi. Not only were we excited to catch it in Australia while on our 45-day expeditionary patrol last fall, but it is my most challenging, most detailed, and best print to date," Kai reminisces. The piece is not just a testament to Kai's artistic skill but also a memento of the enduring spirit of the Fast Response Cutter crews in promoting safety, security, and stewardship in Oceania.

Born in Maui, Kai's journey took him through Kauai, Newark, California, and Oahu before he decided to serve in the Coast Guard in 2007. Initially intending to fulfill a four-year commitment, Kai's affinity for the sea and sense of duty led him to extend his tenure. His choice of electrical work as a trade, inspired by his uncle's wisdom, has since transformed into a highly valued skill set aboard the Oliver Henry.

Beyond his service, Kai remains deeply rooted in his island heritage, a proud husband to Angie Soto-Ruiz, and a devoted father to their 13-year-old daughter. In the rich tapestry of Hawaiian culture, the definition of 'family' extends to include close friends and community members, and Kai embodies this inclusive spirit. His quiet leadership and genial nature make him an accessible figure for new crew members and visitors, often welcoming them over a game of Super Smash Bros. on the mess deck.

Kai's affinity for fishing and Gyotaku is reflective of his mindful, respectful approach to life. In sharing his creations without seeking compensation and teaching others the art of fishing and painting, he fosters a sense of community and camaraderie. Much like his art, his life is a testament to the quiet strength and enduring beauty of the island spirit.