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Press Release | June 21, 2024

US Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless celebrated for 56 years’ service during heritage recognition ceremony

To view b-roll of the ceremony, click here.

NAVAL AIR STATION PENSACOLA, Fla. — The Coast Guard held a heritage recognition ceremony, Friday, in Pensacola to honor the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless (WMEC 624) and recognize its 56 years of exemplary service.

The ceremony was presided over by Vice Adm. Nathan Moore, Atlantic Area commander, and served to celebrate Dauntless’ contributions to the service and Nation in the presence of cutter leadership, current and former crew members, families and friends. 

The event also marked the ship’s exit from active-duty service for an indeterminate time, placing it in commission, special status. The 210-foot Dauntless operated as a Coast Guard Atlantic Area command asset, based in Portsmouth, Virginia, and was most recently homeported in Pensacola.

Dauntless was built in Lorain, Ohio and commissioned in 1968. The cutter is the 10th of 16 vessels built in the Reliance-class of medium endurance cutters that have operated in the Coast Guard’s fleet. These cutters were designed for search and rescue, law enforcement missions such as counterdrug and migrant interdiction, as well as national defense and international engagement.

Dauntless was named after the inspirational trait, which means to persevere fearlessly. It’s motto, “Sin Miedo," translated as “Without Fear,” also underscores the same spirit valued by the cutter’s crews. It is the first Coast Guard cutter to bear its name.

Dauntless spent its first 25 years assigned in the Coast Guard Seventh District area of responsibility and was homeported in Miami Beach.

Throughout the cutter’s storied career, it has earned a reputation as one of the nation's preeminent drug-busting vessels. Of note, Dauntless has over 85 illegal narcotics interdictions to its credit, executing more busts than any other cutter.

On March 8, 1973, Dauntless became the first cutter in history to seize one ton of marijuana after its crew boarded the fishing vessel Big L. The boarding team arrested the master and crew.

Dauntless was also the second cutter in Coast Guard history to seize one million pounds of marijuana, following in the footsteps of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast (WMEC 623). This milestone accomplishment earned Dauntless the large gold marijuana leaf painted on its superstructure.

Dauntless responded to the mass Cuban exodus known as the Mariel Boatlift in 1980. Between April 23 and May 13, crew members towed over 25 vessels to safety, rescued eight persons adrift at sea, and conducted 55 search and rescue cases. 

President Ronald Reagan visited the cutter on November 17, 1982, and awarded Dauntless with the Coast Guard Unit Commendation. It was the first time in almost 20 years that a sitting U.S. president had visited a Coast Guard cutter.

Dauntless’ most publicized search and rescue case occurred in January 1986. The cutter was first to arrive during the response to the NASA space shuttle Challenger disaster. Serving as the on-scene commander for over a week, crew members tended to safety management and debris recovery.

During the 1980s, Dauntless appeared in two motion pictures. In “The Island,” the cutter is portrayed as a fictitious ‘U.S. Coast Guard Cutter New Hope,’ which is boarded and seized by Caribbean pirates. Dauntless was also featured later in the James Bond film, “License to Kill.”

In June of 1993, Dauntless was decommissioned and underwent an 18-month-long Major Maintenance Availability at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore. After its completion, Dauntless relocated to the Coast Guard Eighth District area of responsibility and reported to its new home port of Galveston, Texas in March of 1995.

On November 24, 1995, crew members rescued 578 migrants from a grossly overloaded 75-foot coastal freighter. It was the largest number of migrants rescued from a single vessel in Coast Guard history.

In 2009, Dauntless underwent a second drydock availability at the Coast Guard Yard. During the 10-month period, the cutter received an increase in its long-term capability through equipment upgrades, habitability improvements and structural repairs to improve reliability and drive down costs.

Dauntless relocated to its current home port in July 2018.

In 2022, the cutter received a six-month drydock availability at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City. Dauntless underwent hull restoration and preservation projects, prolonging the ship’s life further.

Recently working alongside the Royal Netherlands navy, Dauntless’ crew seized approximately 8,500 pounds of cocaine and apprehended 13 suspected drug smugglers with Dominican Republic and Colombian nationalities following a 45-day patrol in the Caribbean Sea.

During the cutter’s final patrol this year, Dauntless completed a 61-day deployment in the Windward Passage and Florida Straits. On March 8, crew members conducted a search and rescue case on a moonless night. After searching for several hours, the crew located an unlit, overloaded and disabled sail freighter with 65 Haitian migrants on board, including several children. The crew safely rescued all 65 migrants.

“To the crew, thank you all for the work you put forth in maintaining and operating the Dauntless,” said Vice Adm. Nathan Moore, Atlantic Area commander. “Your work is the heart of what we do as a sea-going service, and your collective energy, work ethic, character and sacrifice is what sets the tone for the sailors that will follow in your footsteps. Although your time on Dauntless is coming to an end, I look forward to your continued leadership and contributions to our Service’s missions and culture as you move on to your next assignments.”

The Dauntless now transitions into an inactive shipyard status as part of the Coast Guard’s greater “AY24 Force Alignment Initiative,” a program to temporarily adjust operations to better reflect the approximate 10% shortage of enlisted members while the Service reassigns personnel and assets to ensure the essential mission readiness demanded by the American public.

This initiative will enable the Coast Guard to meet growing demands for the service’s unique capabilities and authorities during the workforce recruitment and retention challenges facing all U.S. military service branches.

“The Coast Guard cannot maintain the same level of operations with our current shortfall – we cannot do the same with less,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Heath Jones in a joint statement. “Conducting our missions is often inherently dangerous, and doing so without enough crew puts our members and the American public at increased risk.”

Once back at the Coast Guard Yard, Dauntless’ current crew will transfer to different units both ashore and afloat, a step taken to help ensure the Coast Guard’s ability to prioritize lifesaving missions, national security, and protection of the Maritime Transportation System with no degradation to these critical services.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to have served with the men and women that comprise the exceptional crew of Dauntless,” said Cmdr. Aaron Kowalczk, commanding officer of Dauntless. “This crew embodies the Coast Guard’s Core Values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty; their dedication to their shipmates, ship, and country is inspiring. In my 13 months on board, I have seen them serve with distinction, protecting the homeland, enforcing our laws at sea, and saving lives. Every day they remind me of our cutter’s motto, “Sin Miedo,” as they face every challenge and obstacle ‘Without Fear’. They have written an epic final chapter to close Dauntless’ 56 historic years of dedicated service to America.”

Dauntless is a 210-foot, Reliance-class medium endurance cutter with a crew of 62. Since commissioning in 1968, Dauntless has executed counterdrug and migrant interdiction operations, supported national defense and homeland security missions, and conducted search and rescue missions in support of Coast Guard operations throughout the Western Hemisphere.   

More information about the U.S. Coast Guard’s AY24 Force Alignment Initiative can be found here

For information on how to join the U.S. Coast Guard, visit to learn about active duty, reserve, officer and enlisted opportunities.

Information on how to apply to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy can be found here.