DULUTH, Minn. — A change-of-command ceremony was held for the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder at Coast Guard Station Duluth June 22.
Cmdr. Mary Ellen J. Durley, daughter of Robert and Mary Durley of Potosi, transferred the duties and responsibilities of commanding officer to Lt. Cmdr. Anthony J. Maffia during the ceremony. Rear Adm. Michael Parks, commander of the 9th Coast Guard District, served as presiding officer.
“It has been a highlight of my career, serving with such a dedicated and hardworking crew,” said Durley. “It’s hard to believe that three years have gone by so quickly. It feels like yesterday when I moved to beautiful Duluth, and was greeted by that nice Minnesota hospitality. My neighbors made me feel right at home with their generosity, kindness, and superior baking talents! I will treasure my time living in Duluth, and am grateful for the support of the community for making my tour here very memorable.”
The ceremony recognized the efforts accomplished by a special unified team over the past three years.
“A ship’s captain can do little by him or herself,” said Durley. “Ship captains set the destination and course to steer in most cases, but they don’t make the engines run, man the helm, scrape and paint the hull, or prepare the fine meals that make everyone smile [unless the officers are making pizza during Pizza Night under way]. All of the intricate, hard work is done by the crew.”
For the past three years, the crew trained, maintained, and operated to successfully accomplish missions using ALDER’s guiding principles: A-Adaptability, L-Leadership, D-Dedication, E-Enthusiasm, and R-Respect: (which spells the acronym ALDER). Durley commented, “The men and women Alder sustained the highest level of performance that the Great Lakes community expects from the Coast Guard, and kept the tradition of Semper Peratus, Always Ready!”
The ceremony celebrated Alder’s significant accomplishments, during which Durley served as its third commanding officer since 2009.
“No one person is perfect, but on any given day, the crew worked cohesively as a team, successfully committed to achieve Operational Excellence and lived up to the ship’s motto, ‘King of the Waters,’” said Durley. “We broke and maintained tracks in the ice-covered waters of the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior, as well as Thunder Bay, Ontario; maintained and serviced an average of 145 aids to navigation per year located on Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and the St. Mary’s River; escorted a ferry delivering vital fuel to Madeline Island; and assisted Cutter Mackinaw by stepping in to fulfill the duties as the Chicago Christmas Tree Ship, delivering over 800 trees to families in need and spreading loads of holiday joy while decommissioning the lighted aids during the fall buoy season on Lake Michigan.
“The most unexpected mission was Alder’s participation in a joint international mission with Danish, Canadian, and U.S. naval forces during Operation Nanook 2010. We sailed together literally to the top of the world and back to Duluth. This 62-day deployment was a journey of a lifetime. How many Coastie ship captains get to take their vessel and crew up into the reaches of the Arctic? ALDER transited waters from Duluth, MN to Pond Inlet, Nunavat, visiting foreign ports such as Nuuk, Greenland, Halifax, St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Quebec City.
“We saw enormous icebergs, glaciers, whales, seals, and visited Inuit villages so extremely remote, some were impossible to reach by car. We transited unfamiliar and sometimes uncharted waters, safely recovering our own crew in frigid waters, and rescuing six Canadian partners whose small boat was swamped by waves and washed upon a rocky shore.”
One of Durley’s wishes was to see a polar bear during the Arctic trip, which she failed to do. In late June, she almost got her chance to see one in the wild due to the torrential rains and extreme flooding that occurred in the Duluth area and allowed a polar bear at the Lake Superior Zoo to escape.
In three years, Durley acquired unparalleled skills and leadership to last the rest of her Coast Guard career.
“It was an unbelievable whirlwind tour,” she said. “I would never have been able to accomplish this challenging and demanding job without the dedication and hard work of her crew,” and saluted the crew for their outstanding performance.
Upon relief of command, Durley will report to Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington D.C., where she will serve as chief, aids to navigation and icebreaker capabilities division.
Commissioned in 2004, Alder is the newest addition to the Coast Guard’s fleet of 225-foot Seagoing Buoy Tenders. The crew’s missions include aids to navigation, domestic ice breaking, homeland security and law enforcement. Alder is one of the most advanced vessels afloat, integrating the latest technological developments in computers, navigation, environmental protection, and remote monitoring systems. The Integrated Ship Control System coordinates radar, satellite navigation, and computer-generated charts with the ship’s controllable pitch propeller, rudder and thrusters.
The change-of-command ceremony is a time-honored naval tradition that formally acknowledges the transfer of responsibility, authority and accountability from one individual to another.
Family members in attendance were Mary Devins, Rockie Belken of Janesville, Don Kane of Michigan, Fr. Michael Durley McLain of Merrill, and Mary Ellen’s family, Bob and Mary, Kayleen, Robert, Dan, Kathleen and Lori of Potosi.