New command for USCG gem

The Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton pulled into its home port in the Charleston Harbor for the first time Monday November 24, 2014. (Grace Beahm/Staff)

When U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Scott Clendenin assumes command of the Hamilton on Friday, he will take charge of the newest and most technologically advanced cutter on the East Coast.

And he will be reminded daily of the honor of serving a vessel named for Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. secretary of the treasury who is considered the father of the Coast Guard.

Command of the ship will pass to Mr. Clendenin from Capt. Douglas M. Fears, who commissioned the Hamilton here in December. He has been in command since the Coast Guard took possession of the ship in Mississippi in September, and before that he and his crew spent months preparing the ship for its maiden voyage.

A change of command ceremony is always moving, and this one also should instill pride that Charleston was selected as home to the impressive, 418-foot National Security Cutter (NSC).

The Coast Guard is having eight such ships built to replace aging smaller cutters that have been in service since the 1960s. The new cutters, each of which costs almost $700 million, are the pride of the Coast Guard.

The Charleston area is popular with Coast Guardsmen. But its selection as home to the Hamilton indicates the Coast Guard also has confidence in the talent and performance of the local force.

That’s key because the 120-person crew will be expected to do a lot: secure the coast and waterways, interdict drug trading, serve in the event of a major disaster like a hurricane, conduct search and rescue missions, and deal with illegal immigrants crossing the Caribbean from other countries, It can accommodate as many as 1,100 people if necessary.

Capt. Fears has said that a new vessel assumes a personality, and the first crew bestows that personality on the ship. The personality tends to stay the same. His description — excellence and fun.

That’s an appropriate personality for a ship based in Charleston which will be the centerpiece of the Coast Guard’s East Coast fleet.