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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cutter Maui in good hands

 •  Isle veterans court sought

By William Cole

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Lt. Dion Nicely

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Lt. Dion Nicely is a Coastie from Kaua'i who will take command of the Maui in Bahrain.

Say what?

Nicely, 30, is a Coast Guard officer and 1996 Kapa'a High School graduate currently based out of New York.

On May 22, he'll take command of the 110-foot cutter Maui, which he said is the only Coast Guard patrol boat named after a Hawaiian island.

The Maui, based out of Bahrain, conducts maritime interception and security operations, including boarding foreign ships, as well as river patrols, and checks on offshore oil rigs.

The Coast Guard has six cutters, the Maui included, in the Persian Gulf.

Nicely, a 2001 Coast Guard Academy grad, said taking command of a ship is something he's always wanted to do. The Maui has three officers and 19 enlisted crew members.

"If there were a boat named Kaua'i, I would have definitely made it my No. 1 choice because of my obvious bias of growing up on the north shore," Nicely said.

"Being able to take command of a cutter is a unique and challenging experience, and taking command of a cutter named after an island in Hawai'i is an honor."

About 300 Coast Guard men and women serve in and around the Persian Gulf, Nicely said.

That force includes a re-deployment and inspection detachment assisting the Defense Department with containerized cargo, he said.

There's also a Middle East Training Team providing law enforcement training to the Coast Guard cutters in the region, and a Port Advisory Coordination Element in Iraq assisting the Iraqi government.

Nicely said he has been receiving cultural awareness training and learning the history of U.S. involvement in Bahrain. The pre-deployment familiariza- tion also has included working with U.S. Navy units that have operated in the region.

The Kaua'i man said he expects the Maui to be in demand, with cutters in the Middle East performing about twice as many hours operationally as those stateside.

Nicely served as navigator on the cutter Rush out of Honolulu from 2001 to 2003.

"As a cutterman, taking command of a ship was something I had wanted to do and had been preparing to do since I entered the Coast Guard Academy in 1997," he said.

"This is an adventure. Few Coasties get to have the privilege of command."