Its namesake, the first JUNIPER, was commissioned into the U.S. Lighthouse Service back in 1903. The U.S. Lighthouse Service (USLHS) was its own uniformed service completely separate from the Coast Guard, which up until 1915 was the Revenue Cutter Service. JUNIPER, homeported in Baltimore, was responsible for resupplying lighthouses and maintaining navigational buoys in the Chesapeake Bay up until its decommissioning in 1932. While comparatively small at 95 ft long and 125 tons, JUNIPER was of solid construction and served as a civilian cargo vessel out of Norfolk up until 1979.
In late 1930s, the USLHS designed the second JUNIPER which was to be the lead ship for its newest class of 177 ft buoy tenders. However, when the USLHS merged with the Coast Guard in 1939, the Coast Guard decided to build the JUNIPER as a one of a kind vessel and redesign a new class of buoy tenders that were capable of other missions such as search and rescue and icebreaking. This JUNIPER operated out of Tampa until its decommissioning in 1975. This new class of buoy tender was commissioned during WWII and served for many decades, and it was these ships that the newest JUNIPER was designed to replace.
The advances made from the 180 ft vintage seagoing buoy tenders to the current JUNIPER class are all encompassing. The current JUNIPER is much larger at 225 feet long and 2000 tons, and it was the first cutter to fully leverage and implement many technological advances such as electronic charting, position keeping, and remote engineering monitoring and control. JUNIPER is also designed to skim and recover oil in the event of an oil spill, and spent over 150 days in the Gulf of Mexico recovering 145,660 gallons of oil after the explosion and subsequent sinking of the Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit DEEPWATER HORIZON in 2010. As proven by the recovery operations performed after the TWA Flight 800 and Egypt Air 990 catastrophes as well as participation in the anti-terrorist/force protection operations in New York after the World Trade Center attack on 9/11, JUNIPER is truly a multi-mission national resource.