Crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf salute
the American flag after the delivery ceremony for the ship.
Bertholf will be commissioned in Alameda, Calif., Aug. 4,
the Coast Guard’s birthday.
The committee is hoping to raise about $150,000 for
the wide range of commissioning events, which will run
from Aug. 2-9. Events will include a series of receptions,
a Sterett family picnic, and a host of tours, Orioles tickets, softball games and liberty call opportunities for the
crew members, as well as Navy League tours of the ship
and a special event for the crew Aug. 6 at Fort McHenry
National Monument and Historic Shrine.
The ship’s namesake, Lt. Andrew Sterett, a Baltimore native, was an officer during the early days of
the U.S. Navy. He served aboard Constellation, commanding a gun battery when the ship attained the first
U.S. victory against a foreign navy, capturing the
French frigate L’Insurgent in 1799. Sterett will be
homeported in San Diego.
Navy Secretary Donald Winter will be the guest
speaker at the commissioning. As many as 5,000 people — including some of Lt. Sterett’s descendants —
are expected to attend the Sterett events, and Malley
said there has been a dramatic upswing in interest
since an article about the commissioning ran in the
July 4 edition of the Baltimore Sun.
“I’ve been swamped with e-mails requesting invitations for the last three days,” he said. “I think we’re in
pretty good shape, but it’s going to be a hectic next
couple of weeks.”
The Pacific Central Region also ran into some obstacles in getting the Bertholf commissioning effort under
way. As it has done in the past, the region pooled the
efforts of its 23 councils for the event, after being asked
by the Coast Guard to host it two years ago. So organization on the region’s end was not an issue.
However, getting necessary paperwork and other
procedural matters squared away on the part of the
Coast Guard, which has not commissioned a ship of
the 418-foot Bertholf’s size in nearly 40 years, proved
difficult, according to Region President Donald F. Hale.
Eventually, at the committee’s recommendation, the
Coast Guard asked Joe Hanna, the Navy’s coordinator
of ship commissionings, to oversee the effort. Since
then, the process has been “hectic, but we have gotten
a lot accomplished,” Hale said.
“You have to be organized, because there are a lot of
things to think of [plankowner plaques, awards and
certificates, etc., in addition to event planning and
logistics]. It’s a great deal of work, but we put together
a good committee [chaired by National Director
Jeanne Sharkey] of Navy Leaguers and private citizens
and we are doing our best.
“It’s a huge endeavor,” he added. “This is a first-of-the-line ship. As the head of the [Legend] class, it’s an
The commissioning committee is hoping to raise
$125,000-$140,000 for the ceremony, and has lined up
some high-profile honorary chairmen to help with the
effort and garner publicity, including Sen. Dianne
Feinstein, D-Calif.; Alice Lai-Bitker, Alameda County
supervisor; Alameda Mayor Beverly Johnson; James
Andrasick, CEO of Matson Navigation; and actor Kevin
Costner, who starred in the movie “The Guardian,”
about the Coast Guard’s rescue swimmer program.
Despite a political climate in the Bay Area that has,
at times, been hostile when it comes to military issues
— the San Francisco Board of Education, for example,
voted to drop Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps
programs from city schools in 2006 — Hale said the
community has responded enthusiastically to the
“There has been good community support across
the board. Everybody is really interested. It is a historically significant event,” he said. “And it’s going to be a
really good show. It’s a beautiful ship, very state of the
art, and it has an impressive crew.”
Adm. Thad Allen, Coast Guard commandant; Rep.
Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Coast Guard and maritime
transportation subcommittee; Department of Homeland
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and his wife, Meryl,
Bertholf’s sponsor, are slated to attend the commissioning
ceremony. The cutter will be homeported in Alameda.
Once the Bertholf ceremony is over, the Pacific Central
Region will not have long to rest on its laurels. According
to Hale, it will soon have to start gearing up for the commissioning of the second National Security Cutter,
Waesche, which will likely take place in 2010. ■
Information for Navy League councils interested in sponsoring a
commissioning can be found by calling the Navy at (228) 769-
4419 or the Coast Guard at (202) 267-0325. The Navy League’s
“Ship Commissioning Guide” is available online at http://www.