Face of Defense: Cutter Commander Shares Haiti Experience

NEW LONDON, Conn. — U.S. Coast Guard offi­cers are pre­sent­ed with many chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties. Nor­mal oper­a­tions may quick­ly turn into a life or death mis­sion that chal­lenges their train­ing and expe­ri­ence.
Coast Guard Cmdr. Diane W. Durham became the head of the Pro­fes­sion­al Mar­itime Stud­ies Depart­ment here dur­ing the sum­mer of 2010. She leads 17 mil­i­tary and civil­ian instruc­tors and staff, and over­sees the nau­ti­cal sci­ence train­ing of the more than 1,000 mem­bers of the academy’s corps of cadets.

Coast Guard Academy
Coast Guard Cmdr. Diane W. Durham, head of the Pro­fes­sion­al Mar­itime Stud­ies Depart­ment at the Coast Guard Acad­e­my, instructs sec­ond class cadets dur­ing an exer­cise on a train­ing boat on the Thames Riv­er near New Lon­don, Conn., April 4, 2011.
U.S. Coast Guard pho­to by Pet­ty Offi­cer 2nd Class Tim­o­thy Tamar­go
Click to enlarge

A few months ear­li­er Durham had put her expe­ri­ence to the test as com­man­der of the Coast Guard Cut­ter For­ward. She and her crew were pressed into action in response to a 7.0 mag­ni­tude earth­quake that struck less than 15 miles from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 12, 2010. 

The For­ward was on deploy­ment, Durham recalled, and recent­ly had arrived in Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba, when the earth­quake occurred. 

“The duty sec­tion and off-duty crew onboard were jolt­ed by unusu­al move­ment of the ship and quick­ly gath­ered to respond to an onboard emer­gency,” she said. “We learned that it was an earth­quake, and soon after, we learned of the dev­as­ta­tion in Port-au-Prince. 

“The crew was recalled from var­i­ous points around the base,” Durham con­tin­ued, “and we were under­way by 10 p.m. We made best speed through the night.” 

Durham’s cut­ter was the first U.S. ves­sel to arrive in Haiti for the earth­quake response mission. 

Dur­ing the response, Durham said her crew mem­bers con­duct­ed numer­ous mis­sions, includ­ing search and res­cue, air traf­fic con­trol, port assess­ments, dam­age assess­ment over­flights and med­ical evacuations. 

Durham and her crew were rec­og­nized for their excep­tion­al work dur­ing the response effort. On July 4, 2010, Durham rep­re­sent­ed the Coast Guard at the White House and was com­mend­ed by Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma for the Haiti relief efforts. 

“We salute the Unit­ed States Coast Guard, includ­ing a Coast Guards­man who com­mand­ed the first U.S. ves­sel to arrive in Haiti after the earth­quake, help­ing to pave the way for one of the most com­plex human­i­tar­i­an efforts ever attempt­ed, Cmdr. Diane Durham,” Oba­ma said. 

At the height of the response in mid-Jan­u­ary, the Coast Guard had up to eight cut­ters in Haiti’s ports, in the Caribbean and in Flori­da waters. Air assets includ­ed a HC-144A Ocean Sen­try air­craft, five HC-130 Her­cules air­craft, three MH-65 Dol­phin heli­copters and three MH-60 Jay­hawk heli­copters oper­at­ing in Haiti with more than 800 Coast Guard mem­bers pro­vid­ing assis­tance on shore, afloat on the cut­ters and in the air. 

Durham said she empha­sized an open and hon­est com­mand cli­mate built on trust and communication. 

“Being on a cut­ter requires peo­ple to embody the term ship­mate,” she said. “You live togeth­er, work togeth­er, strug­gle togeth­er and suc­ceed togeth­er for long peri­ods of time. You become a family.” 

This com­mand cli­mate direct­ly impact­ed Durham’s crew. 

“Com­man­der Durham is very ded­i­cat­ed to the over­all mis­sion of the Coast Guard. I have sought after her coun­cil for stress­ful sit­u­a­tions on sev­er­al occa­sions,” said Senior Chief Pet­ty Offi­cer Nicole Rose, the com­mand chief on the For­ward. “What makes a good leader is look­ing out after your peo­ple, ded­i­ca­tion, moti­va­tion, com­pas­sion and the abil­i­ty to expert­ly han­dle dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions. This is a tal­ent too few have and many more need.” 

Durham has served more than nine years at sea dur­ing her 21-year career on the Coast Guard cut­ters Rush, Deci­sive, Res­olute, Tam­pa and For­ward. Durham said she now brings her knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence from the fleet into the class­room to train and teach cadets, offi­cer can­di­dates, prospec­tive com­mand­ing offi­cers and exec­u­tive officers. 

“It’s impor­tant to have offi­cers from the fleet as instruc­tors because they know what is expect­ed of junior offi­cers in their first tours and what will help us achieve suc­cess when we enter the work­force,” said First Class Cadet Aman­da Cousart, a marine and envi­ron­men­tal sci­ence major at the acad­e­my. “Teach­ing cadets and oth­er Coast Guard per­son­nel is a way to make sure all of the infor­ma­tion Com­man­der Durham has learned is passed on so future offi­cers can make the Coast Guard thrive.” 

First Class Cadet Dana Pre­fer echoed Cousart’s sentiments. 

“I think that Com­man­der Durham is a wealth of knowl­edge because she has done almost every­thing you can do in the afloat com­mu­ni­ty,” Pre­fer said. “When she told us about her past jobs, I was very impressed that she held that many com­mand posi­tions and high­ly-sought-after billets. 

I believe that due to her diverse career path,” Pre­fer added, “she is able to get through to her stu­dents effec­tive­ly, and I see her as a very good mod­el of what a leader should be.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefence.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →