The Third National Security Cutter, Stratton

It was a big day yesterday for the third National Security Cutter (NSC), Stratton. The Coast Guard and industry partners not only laid the keel, marking the beginning of the ship’s construction, but also announced the cutter would be sponsored by the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.

As the cutter’s sponsor, the First Lady’s initials were ceremoniously welded into the keel during yesterday’s events. Serving as Stratton’s sponsor is an extension of Mrs. Obama’s commitment to supporting America’s men and women in uniform and their families. The NSC Stratton is also the first white-hull patrol cutter to be named after a woman in 20 years and only one of about 10 Coast Guard cutters with a female namesake.

Captain Dorothy C. Stratton, working at her desk at Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C. in 1944

Captain Dorothy C. Stratton, working at her desk at Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C. in 1944

These honors truly memorialize the contributions and achievements of Captain Dorothy Stratton. Captain Stratton was the first woman accepted in to the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve in 1942, which she led during World War II. She coined the name SPARs for the members as a contraction of the service’s motto “Semper Paratus.” SPARs served in many vital roles during the war and helped pave the way for women to serve throughout our Armed Forces. During her four years as director, she recruited and led 10,000 enlisted women and 1,000 commissioned officers and ultimately earned the Legion of Merit medal for her contributions to women in the military.

Her official war-time biography noted:
“Through her qualities of leadership, Captain Stratton inspired the finest type of woman to volunteer her services to her country. Through her keen understanding of the abilities of women, her vision of the jobs which they could perform, and her consummate tact in fitting women into a military organization, she was able to direct the efforts of the women of the Reserve into channels of the greatest usefulness to the Coast Guard and to the country.”

Other cutters named after females include the CGC Maria Bray, Abbie Burgess, Ida Lewis, Barbara Mabrity, Katherine Walker, and Harriet Lane.

The NSCs are part of the Coast Guard’s Deepwater program to upgrade its cutter fleet. The 418-foot long cutters feature increased range and endurance (60–90 day patrol cycles); more powerful armament; larger flight decks; chemical, biological and radiological environmental hazard detection and defense; and improved Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) equipment, enhancing Coast Guard and U.S. Navy interoperability under the National Fleet plan.

Click here to watch a video of the ceremony

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  • Tom Wright

    I’m in full support of the cutter’s name and sponsor but….how many cutters were named after people in the last 20 years, and how many active cutters are named after people. The Coast Guard chose Stratton’s name and sponsor for all the right reasons. The story’s journalistic comments detract from good news.

  • cbraesch

    Tom Wright,

    Over the years the Coast Guard has named various classes of cutter after people. Many are still in service including the 378-foot high endurance “Secretary Class” cutters named after past secretaries of the treasury, the 175-foot “Keeper Class” buoy tenders named after famous lighthouse keepers, several of the 270-foot “Famous Class” medium endurance cutters named after famous people and all of the 425-foot “Legend Class” national security cutters will be named after Coast Guard legends.

    You can read more about the namesakes of Coast Guard resources here.

    CBraesch

  • Tom Wright

    So, looking at your information, none of the Secretary class could be named after women. The “Keepers” don’t count because they are black hulls and your point is about white hulls. What percentage of the total are the 10 cutters with a female namesake? How many white hulls were named after people who served in the Coast Guard in the past 20 years?
    And just what was the point of the statement “The NSC Stratton is also the first white-hull patrol cutter to be named after a woman in 20 years and only one of about 10 Coast Guard cutters with a female namesake.” I thought the Coast Guard named the ship to recognize a competent professional. What’s your point?

  • David Esquire

    I don’t understand the point of any of these comments. What are you proving? Does the Coast Guard need more female names for cutters? Less? Should the Coast Guard find newer heros to name their cutters? I don’t meant to be rude, but I just don’t understand the point that either of you are making.

  • Bill Wells

    No, less myth making in the naming process. There were cutters named for women long before Harriet Lane. For example, Maria in 1798, Dolly in 1805, Sally in 1808, and Polly in 1812–all black hull, because there were no white hulls until 1896. Does anyone here know when and why black hulls were reintroduced?

    The point of this list is that just as no one today knows why these names were used, the latest crop is equally mysterious.

    The NSC is supposed to be about Legends, not myths. So, what makes these namesakes legendary?

    The fun thing to observe is how some of the historically legendary figures are over looked to make way for the others not so legendary.

    Coast Guard History has been so homogenized since it began in 1880 that no one really knows what it is. This was borne out in a 1997 NTIC study commissioned by the Coast Guard. CAPT Patrick H. Roth, USN (Ret.) with Richard D. Kohout wrote in “U. S. Coast Guard: Purpose, Characteristics, Contributions, and Worth to the Nation,”

    “Although Coast Guard personnel generally do not have a detailed knowledge of Coast Guard history, there is a widespread appreciation that the organization has had a long history even though that appreciation may consist of no more than simply recalling that the Lifesaving Service “had to go out” regardless of the weather or seas. This history is a source of pride.”

    In other words, the Coast Guard (the people in it) does not know its own history, but knows it when it sees it. Without detail, there is no history. Factoids, rumor and myth do not make history or persons of note. A true source of pride needs more information.

    The question remains, What makes these namesakes legendary?

  • BMCS Jack Crowley USCG Retired

    Wouldn’t it have been nice and history making if the Stratton had a female Skipper!

  • Angela Hirsch

    As the co-chief of the community relations division of Coast Guard public affairs, I serve as a member of the Coast Guard’s standing board for naming of vessels and shore facilities, an advisory body charged with managing the naming process for all cutters and facilities. The legend class of national security cutters was proposed in 2006 and the names for the initial four cutters were approved in 2007.

    When the class was created, the board set three priorities: including leaders who had dramatic influence on Coast Guard history, not limited to former commandants; ensuring a diversity of historical, mission, and career backgrounds; and balancing names already in the Coast Guard fleet (like Munro and Hamilton) with new names that will raise awareness of more unfamiliar influential individuals from Coast Guard history.

    Progress rarely begins with one person, but one person can have an outsize impact on the course of history. Today’s Coast Guard offers boundless opportunities for women. Captain Stratton and the women she led and inspired set forth changes in the organization that brought us where we are today. They, in turn, were inspired by the diligent and often heroic service of lighthouse keepers like Ida Lewis and others who suggested that maybe, just maybe, women could do more to serve their country than society generally thought.

    Captain Stratton is indeed a legend, and deserves to be honored alongside the other members of this elite class of Coast Guard leaders. She is a legend not just to the women who served with and under her, or to the women who serve today. She is a legend because her actions made possible the service we have today – one in which women serve and excel in every rate and role. The Coast Guard is stronger and more diverse than ever before, and we have Capt. Stratton and the other SPARS to thank for it.

    Angela H. Hirsch
    Co-Chief, Community Relations Division
    U. S. Coast Guard Office of Public Affairs