April 5 (UPI) -- In a rare move, three U.S. Coast Guard cutters left Puerto Rico to join NATO allies and the U.S. Navy's 5th and 6th fleets, the Coast Guard announced.
The Legend-class national security cutter USCGC Hamilton and the Sentinel-class fast response cutters USCGC Charles Moulthrope and USCGC Robert Goldman began their transit of the North Atlantic Ocean last week.
The Hamilton will deploy with the 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, while the Moulthrope and the Goldman will continue to Manama, Bahrain and the 5th Fleet, the Coast Guard said in a statement on Sunday.
The deployments are indicative of a new Navy/Coast Guard joint strategy which emphasizes the law enforcement operations of the Coast Guard.
It also employs Coast Guard assets for missions previously reserved for the Navy, notably a 2019 freedom of navigation patrol of the Taiwan Strait, between Taiwan and China, by the USCGC Bertholf, a Legend-class cutter.
The ships headed to Bahrain will replace smaller, Island-class Coast Guard vessels.
"It's been almost two decades since we sent the Island-class patrol boats to Bahrain," Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area commander, said in the release.
"As we seek to modernize our asset support to the U.S. Navy in the Arabian Gulf, this is an excellent opportunity to advance partnerships and learn from our allies in the region," Poulin said.
The Coast Guard's PATFORSWA [Patrol Forces Southwest Asia] has brought assets to the 5th Fleet and U.S. Central Command since 2002, the branch said.
The statement on Sunday noted the Coast Guard's "unique access to foreign territorial seas and ports [and] formulating strong and independent relationships with patterns throughout the Arabian Gulf."