Eagle 75: Welcome home

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Crewmembers man the helm
Crewmembers aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle turn the helm Tuesday, June 21, 2011 while in London. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class NyxoLyno Cangemi

Over the past few months, we’ve brought you stories of the Coast Guard Academy cadets and the various missions and visitors who sailed with the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle during this summer’s 75th anniversary training cruise. But, as the ship sailed its last few miles and prepared to return to homeport this morning after more than 100 days at sea, this story honors the Eagle’s permanent crew. Their significant role in shaping future leaders of the Coast Guard and the sacrifices they have made ensures the Coast Guard’s premier training platform is mission ready.

Post Written by Petty Officer 1st Class NyxoLyno Cangemi, public affairs specialist aboard Eagle.

Petty Officer Brown adjusts radar
Petty Officer 1st Class Frank Brown adjusts a radar aboard the Eagle Monday, July 25, 2011, in Boston. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class NyxoLyno Cangemi.

The permanent crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle seems to treat anyone who comes aboard as if they were members of their own family – whether it is the cadets, officer candidates or visitors.

At sea, the term “shipmate” takes on a new meaning. Bonds are formed in those crucial moments that test the limits of the entire crew when everyone comes together to make it through even the most trying of times.

When you really get to the core of it, the ship itself is just steel and canvas. It’s seems as though everyone is aware that the Eagle is just a platform … a device.

The heart of this iconic vessel, the spirit, is in the people who sail aboard her. The spirit lives in those who wear the uniform, and the Eagle becomes more than just a ship, it becomes a symbol of pride. The men and women who are part of the permanent crew, those who work and sail aboard the ship for years at a time, instill that pride in all who come aboard.

Seaman Gilbert and Petty Officer Walls Parrish navigate
Seaman Thomas Gilbert reviews navigation information with Petty Officer 3rd Class Frona Walls-Parrish Wednesday, July 27, 2011, while sailing the Atlantic Ocean. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class NyxoLyno Cangemi.

During my time aboard the ship, I got to know the 56 permanent crewmembers who call the Eagle their home.

Among them, I got to meet Thomas Gilbert, a seaman who arrived on the Eagle right out of boot camp, choosing to delay his opportunity to go to school with the Coast Guard by two years in order to sail aboard the ship training cadets. This being his third year on the ship, he’s sacrificed time away from his bride of nine months, who is now three months away from delivering their first child.

I’ve met retired SWAT leader Rex Gunderson, a Coast Guard reserve master chief petty officer who spends his summers working aboard the ship. His infectious smile eclipses the years he spent taking criminals off the street.

I’ve come to know Michael Turdo, the newly-reported executive officer who left behind his wife and two-month-old baby after having moved to Connecticut just months before meeting the ship. While he’s the second in command, it was interesting watching him quietly observe his surroundings without bucking the status quo from day one.

Master Chief Rex Gunderson talks to cadets
Master Chief Petty Officer Rex Gunderson talks to a group of cadets Saturday, July 30, 2011, in New Bedford, Mass. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class NyxoLyno Cangemi.

And I’ve come to know the captain of the Eagle, Eric Jones, who looks as comfortable walking the teak decks as he might walking into his own living room. During one phase of the trip, the Eagle hosted Jones’ twin boys Alton and Spencer, whose passion for climbing the rigging was only paralleled by their father’s pride in seeing them do it.

The pride and dedication of the permanent crew ensures the spirit of the Eagle lives on in them and in the future leaders of the service for decades to follow. Over the ship’s 65 years of service in the United States, crews and cadets have come and gone, but the spirit of the Eagle lives on in the lives of all those who have had the good fortune to cross her brow.

Well done Eagle crewmembers. Semper Paratus and welcome home!

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