This blog is part of a series leading up to the commissioning of the Coast Guard’s next national security cutter. On Aug. 8, 2015, the Coast Guard will commission the fifth national security cutter, Coast Guard Cutter James. Learn more about the James namesake in the coming weeks as Coast Guard Compass shares posts leading up the commissioning ceremony! Today, Coast Guard Compass shares the stories of those serving today who carry on the James namesake.
By Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone
“Greater love hath no man than this — that a man lay down his life for his friends”
This inscription is not only etched into the tombstone of Coast Guard legend, Joshua James, but is also burned into the hearts of all who take up his mantle in the modern-day Coast Guard.
Joshua James earned his name on the fifth legend class Coast Guard cutter, through his moral imperative to both personally save lives, and to expand his reach by training and inspiring others to do the same. When the sea raged and sailors were desperate for help, James didn’t simply assign the task of response to those in his charge, rather, in full appreciation for the sacrifice required, Joshua James would ask for volunteers to serve with him.
Similarly, the current crew of James were not just given an assignment to work on this cutter, they answered a solicitation to serve. Whether in engineering, at the helm, cooking meals, or in operational support, bringing life to a new cutter is an all-hands evolution. It is not by accident that each James crewmember is here.
“I went through this very process of setting up a National Security Cutter for commission four years ago on cutter Stratton,” explains Petty Officer 3rd Class William C. Horodnik, a damage controlman aboard James. “This time feels very different and I think it’s because, right from the beginning, we all choose to be here.”
With this choice, these shipmates have a common volunteerism with each other and those who served with Joshua James more than a century ago. By answering the solicitation and being selected, these James crewmembers have earned the title “Plank Owner,” a time honored tradition not taken lightly by the crew.
“Plank Owners are the original crewmembers of a ship or cutter,” explains Ens. Jennifer M. Patron, cutter James’ public affairs officer. “As plank owners, crew members lay the foundation of the ship by pooling their past experiences and assuring the cutter is equipped for future operational readiness.”
For many aboard James, being accepted to this billet, and being a plank owner, was the result of a strict selection process, including a command endorsement from their previous unit.
“When you know that you are serving with the best of the best there is a shared understanding that mediocre is just not good enough,” explains Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Clements, a boatswain’s mate in the deck division aboard James.
A cutter straight out of the shipyard always has kinks to work out, but each challenge is embraced by the crew as a new opportunity to build unit cohesion and bring the cutter closer to efficient operational service. It’s not just about getting the job done, it’s about doing the job well. Shared motivation, enthusiasm, and attention to detail, ensure the cutter will be ready for operational service for this crew and beyond.
“Being a James sailor is to have commitment in perfecting one’s craft,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Lukowiak, an operations specialist. “James would train, and practice, and perfect techniques with his crew because he was committed to proficiency right to his death. Likewise we are determined to put that same commitment into developing the systems and spirit of his cutter.”
During the navigation brief, prior to James motoring its final leg to the Aug. 8, 2015. commissioning in Boston, Lt. Cynthia Travers gave a presentation which both the commanding officer, Capt. Andrew Tiongson, and his executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Moyer, touted as setting the bar for what a navigation brief should be aboard James.
This wasn’t the first navigation brief of the commissioning tour and progressively, for the past month, the crew had been listening and correcting. Travers’s presentation wasn’t full of bells and whistles, or fluff. It was clear, concise and thoughtful of current conditions and possible contingencies. Her attention to detail and consideration of command feedback is emblematic of the heart of the James crew. In this spirit, the new crew of Coast Guard Cutter James feels a special loyalty to their legacy, current shipmates, and crews of the future.
Laying down one’s life doesn’t always require a penultimate sacrifice. To lay down one’s life is to offer time, talents and best efforts toward a worthy cause. It requires, as the Coast Guard Cutter James motto attests, and crew strives for, “Brave and Faithful Service.”