ALAMEDA (CBS SF/AP) — First lady Michelle Obama was at Coast Guard Island in Alameda Saturday morning at what was a wet and windy ceremony to formally commission the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton into active duty.
Along with Coast Guard officials, the first lady addressed a soaked and shivering crowd of a few hundred people as they huddled before the 418-foot ship.
“You are all troopers,” Obama said to the crowd before expressing her thanks to the Coast Guard members and their families.
The first lady also spoke of the ship’s namesake, Capt. Dorothy Stratton, who served as the director of the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve during WWII and oversaw 10,000 enlisted members and 1,000 officers, Coast Guard officials said.
Stratton later went on to become the Girl Scouts of the United States of America’s national executive director.
Obama expressed gratitude to Stratton and the 40 former members of the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve in attendance, saying that they had “broken many barriers” for women.
Among the event’s honored guests were Stratton’s family members, including her niece Barbara Stratton Myers.
Myers recalled her aunt as “someone to look to for inspiration,” and said that the modest woman probably would have been embarrassed about what she would have called “all this hoopla.”
According to the Coast Guard, the cutter ship is one of the largest and most technologically advanced of its kind and is replacing an outdated ship that was used as far back as the Vietnam War.
“We can’t get these ships to our crews fast enough,” Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp, Jr. said in his brief speech.
According to the ship’s new captain, Charles Cashin, the Stratton will leave on its first deployment in six days.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “We can go anywhere in the world,” Cashin said.
The ship will likely begin its deployment in the Eastern Pacific with its current crew of 129, but it could also be called to places as far as the Bering Sea, South America, the Persian Gulf, or the African coast, Cashin said.
Regarding the weather, Seaman Rob Miller remarked that the unfortunate weather was “terrible” and was “no way to commission a beautiful ship.”
The first lady also participated in the Stratton’s 2010 christening in Pascagoula, Miss., where the vessel was built.
After that event, the ship underwent extensive tests and sea trials before being brought to Alameda for the formal introduction into the active Coast Guard fleet.
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