Stewards of the Last Frontier
Posted by LT Stephanie Young, Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Today, the Coast Guard’s newest fast response cutter, Coast Guard Cutter John F. McCormick, officially entered the fleet. While fast response cutters have been in the fleet since 2012, this marks a significant moment for the Coast Guard’s operations in Alaska and in the region, as McCormick is the first of its class to be stationed in the state and the first on the west coast.
These modern ships bring modern capabilities to conduct fisheries patrols, search and rescue and national defense missions for the nation. At 154-feet long, fast response cutters are programmed to spend 2,500 hours per year at sea. These extended hours, longer than any previous coastal patrol boat, will enhance the Coast Guard’s ability to carry out its underway missions.
One person who has seen the capabilities of the ship firsthand is the ship’s commanding officer, Lt. Mike Moyseowicz. He led his crew on a transit that was 6,200 nautical miles from Key West, Florida, to reach their homeport of Ketchikan, Alaska. This voyage included many “firsts” for a fast response cutter: first transit through the Panama Canal, first visit to U.S. west coast ports and first transit through the different operating conditions in the Pacific Ocean.
“This is an incredible platform that significantly increases the Coast Guard’s capabilities in Southeast Alaska,” said Moyseowicz.
What the ship has in capability it also has in character. For the crew of the McCormick, the ship’s namesake carries with it a legacy they aspire to as they patrol throughout the waters off Alaska – executing Coast Guard missions.
John F. McCormick was a boatswain at Station Point Adams, located at the mouth of the Columbia River. Established in 1887, the keepers and surfmen who stood the watch at Point Adams were responsible for saving lives in the high surf off the Pacific Northwest, one of the most perilous maritime environments in the world. This area requires exceptional skill, and grit, to succeed.
Such was the case on March 26, 1938. As officer-in-charge of motor lifeboat Triumph, McCormick was called to duty at the river bar as several boats crossed. When one of the crossing boat’s barges drifted into the outer break, McCormick and his crew moved in to assist. As he did this, Triumph was hit by one of the river’s infamously formidable waves; Triumph’s masts were fully submerged. Robert O. Bracken, one of Triumph’s surfman, was thrown overboard.
Working with his fellow crewmen, Chief Motor Machinist Mate Albert L. Olsen and Surfman Harold W. Lawrence, McCormick deftly maneuvered through the current and breakers to save Bracken. For his actions, McCormick was awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal.
“It is very humbling to honor the legacy of John McCormick and all of the other Coast Guard enlisted heroes by serving on this amazing new ship,” said Moyseowicz.
McCormick’s family shares that he was a quiet, humble man. One who would rather have the honor of a cutter named for him deferred to his entire Triumph crew instead.
“To him, he was doing exactly what he had been trained to do on March 26, 1938, in the extremely dangerous waters at the mouth of the Columbia River,” said Linda Jarmer, McCormick’s granddaughter.
Jarmer joined the crew at the commissioning today and is the ship’s sponsor. Jarmer had previously met with the crew last month when the ship pulled into Astoria, Oregon. Partnering with Station Cape Disappointment, cutter McCormick’s crew and Jarmer passed the area directly where John F. McCormick had saved lives nearly eight decades ago. It was a powerful moment for the crew and further solidified their bond with their ship’s namesake.
At the commissioning, Jarmer was joined by other McCormick family members, including five of McCormick’s grandchildren, one great grandchild and one great nephew. Adding to the familial connection, two descendants from the Triumph crew also attended. Retired Coast Guard Capt. Albert Olsen, son of Machinery Technician Albert Olsen, who received a Silver Lifesaving Medal from the rescue, raised the commissioning pennant. Additionally, Brian Pease, grandson of Surfman Robert Bracken, the crewmember saved in John McCormick’s rescue, presented a long glass, a symbolic gesture for a new ship.
Family and community were important to McCormick who served in many areas of the Pacific Northwest throughout his 26-year Coast Guard career. The crew hopes to emulate this connection to community as they serve Alaskans.
“This platform provides us with an awesome opportunity to give back to the fishing communities and residents of Alaska that have gone without 110-foot patrol boat support for a significant amount of time,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Halbrooks, a boatswain’s mate aboard the new cutter.
“We are ready to do our mission up here,” Halbrooks added.
And ready for the mission they are. With the cutter now officially in the fleet, the crew will get underway, guided by their ship’s motto: Stewards of the Last Frontier.
McCormick’s family noted he never said goodbye, but instead, “see you later.” As his namesake cutter gets underway as an official asset of America’s Coast Guard, the crew carries on his legacy to safeguard citizens of Alaska. So it’s not goodbye, it’s “see you later.”