My Coast Guard
Commentary | Feb. 3, 2022

Coast Guard Academy forges partnership with University of Massachusetts; Coast Guard Academy to honor legacy of SPARs; Commemoration of Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn’s fallen  

By Nicole Bertrand, MyCG writer

Congratulations to the Coast Guard Academy on its partnership with the University of Massachusetts creating new CGA Scholar Pilot Program. Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy (CGA), Rear Adm. Bill Kelly, and Dr. Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts (UMass), signed a memorandum of understanding during a ceremony Jan. 28. The memorandum is designed to establish the CGA Scholar Pilot Program between the Academy and UMass Boston focused on developing students for a future in engineering and cyber systems. The CGA Scholars Pilot program will provide engineering and cyber students an additional year of coursework before entering the Academy for a full four-year academic experience to be successful in the Coast Guard’s engineering and cyber workforce once they graduate and receive their commission. With a focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) prep, the partnership offers a focus on the foundations necessary to promote cadet success in engineering and cyber systems while supporting the Academy's mission to produce graduates who are technically educated and prepared for success in their Coast Guard careers. “By signing this Memorandum of Understanding, the USCGA and Coast Guard are broadening its efforts to recruit the best, brightest and most diverse cadet corps as possible,” said Kelly. “The Academy looks forward to continuing this partnership with UMass Boston and promoting synergy between UMass Boston and the Academy.” 

The U.S. Coast Guard Academy (CGA) will honor the legacy of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Women’s Reserve, also known as SPARs. An inaugural SPARs basketball game is scheduled to take place Feb. 19 at 1p.m., when the Coast Guard Academy (CGA) hosts Emerson College in its final regular season game. The team will be sporting a special uniform that pays tribute to the SPARs and their service. The SPARs dates back to 1942, when legislation was passed creating Women’s Reserve. This new arm of the Coast Guard played pivotal roles in both the ongoing World War II war effort, as well as paving the way for future women in all branches of the military. From 1942 until disbandment in 1946, more than 11,000 women volunteered for service. Under the leadership of Capt. Dorothy Stratton, the SPARs commanding officer, the SPARs allowed the Coast Guard to adequately accommodate for logistical and shore-based needs while simultaneously freeing male service members to serve overseas in the war effort. After the war, the SPARs were demobilized and the SPARs were all discharged by June 30, 1946. It would not be until 1973 when Congressional legislation officially ended the Women’s Reserve and allowed women to integrate into both the active duty and reservists ranks of the Coast Guard, where they continue to serve to this day. 

The Coast Guard honored 23 fallen crew members during a memorial service for the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn collision. The ceremony, held on Jan. 28, commemorated the 42nd anniversary of the incident, during which Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn collided with a tanker vessel and sank in Tampa, Fla. The Blackthorn lost 23 of its 50 crew members in the Coast Guard’s worst peacetime disaster. Memorials inscribed with the names of the crew members who perished stand two miles north of the collision site and on Base Galveston. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Chris Winters, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Harry Claiborne, presided over the ceremony on Base Galveston. The ceremony included a reading of a letter penned by Master Chief Petty Officer Ronald Miller, officer-in-charge of the Coast Guard Cutter Vice at the time of the collision, a reading of the names of the lost Blackthorn crew members and the tolling of a ship’s bell. During the ceremony, crew members from Sector Houston-Galveston, Base Galveston and cutters homeported in Galveston laid 23 roses to commemorate each of the fallen crew members. “It is an honor to be part of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn memorial ceremony,” said Winters. “As cuttermen and aids to navigation professionals, we share a kinship with the crew of the Blackthorn. Gathering each year to remember our shipmates who lost their lives helps ensure we do not forget the lessons learned from their sacrifice.” The Blackthorn collision provided the impetus for the establishment of the Command and Operations School at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. The school offers courses to prepare command-level officers and senior enlisted members for command duty afloat. Additionally, the Coast Guard developed new training requirements, invested in more safety equipment and made changes to the navigational aids in and around Tampa Bay.