Written by Lt. j.g. John Beal.
It was noon formation aboard Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk. The crew stood at attention as the ship’s bell rang eight times, signifying the end of watch and the passing of a sailor. On that day, as the crew mustered, they were honoring the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg.
Lautenberg’s connection with the ship and its crew started in 1989 when his wife, Bonnie, and several members of his family christened the newly commissioned medium-endurance Cutter Mohawk in Rhode Island. For more than 20 years the Lautenberg’s supported the crew as they executed the Coast Guard’s various missions out of its current homeport of Key West, Fla., patrolling the Florida Straits, the Gulf of Mexico and throughout the Caribbean.
Lautenberg’s longtime service in Congress began after his decorated military service in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during WWII. Cmdr. Adam B. Morrison, Mohawk’s current commanding officer, commented, “The Senator’s support and fondness of the Coast Guard helped secure funding and recognition for our service, especially after the Coast Guard was transferred to the newly created Department of Homeland Security.”
In honor of Lautenberg and his support, Mohawk’s crew retired the commissioning pennant and Coast Guard ensign that flew high atop the cutter’s mast to be presented to the family for their decades of support for the Coast Guard, the cutter and its crew.
Morrison spoke to the crew about the Lautenberg family’s role as advocates for the Coast Guard and in particular, the cutter Mohawk. Morrison also read the first entry into the Ship’s Record of Inspections on Nov. 14, 1990, by Lautenberg to Mohawk’s first commanding officer, Cmdr. R. R. Beardsworth, which described the fondness and pride that the Senator felt for Mohawk and her crew.
“I was truly inspired by meeting with the officers and the crew of my adopted ship,” Lautenberg wrote. “My family and I treasure our association with the Mohawk and we have fond memories of the christening.”
Lautenberg not only supported Coast Guard missions, but championed the crew. For nearly 20 years, the Lautenberg family sponsored an award scholarship fund. Named for the senator’s first daughter, the Ellen Lautenberg Award was given to deserving crewmembers to fund their personal and professional development through advanced education opportunities.
Mohawk’s supply department head, Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Dunick, sailed onboard Mohawk six years ago as a first class petty officer and was a recipient of the Ellen Lautenberg award in 2007. Dunick recalled that, “It was honor enough to be chosen for sailor of the year, and when I learned that the scholarship accompanied the nomination I was awed by the generosity of Senator Lautenberg and his family.”
Fair winds and following seas, Sen. Lautenberg.