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My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 19, 2024

Never Give Up

By Renee Coleman, NCGM director of public affairs

How does the Coast Guard celebrate the life and legacy of a man who is considered a pioneer and great champion of the enlisted servicemembers? By naming the newest addition to the Legend Class National Security Cutter fleet after him. The Coast Guard will officially welcome its tenth Legend Class National Security Cutter, USCGC Calhoun WMSL 759, in a commissioning ceremony April 20, 2024, in Charleston, South Carolina. 

This 418-foot cutter, which is homeported in Charleston, is named after Master Chief Charles Calhoun, the first master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard (MCPOCG). 

Calhoun originally joined the Navy in 1943 at 17 and was trained as a torpedoman. He served on the USS Lunga Point in the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II. He participated in many of the bloodiest battles, including the battles of Leyte Gulf, Luzon, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. The Lunga Point’s crew received the Navy Unit Commendation for “extraordinary heroism and action against enemy Japanese forces in the air, ashore, and afloat” following a kamikaze attack on the ship. Calhoun was honorably discharged from the Navy on Feb. 21, 1946. 

Originally from Ocean City, Maryland, Calhoun returned home and went to work for the post office. On Sept. 20, 1946, Calhoun joined the Coast Guard. 

His notable accomplishments include working on the board that led to the creation of the Cutterman insignia, implementing a program of local advisors who reported to the MCPOCG office to hear enlisted personnel issues, and starting the movement toward the Coast Guard wearing its own style of uniform as opposed to the Navy uniforms.  

“Master Chief Calhoun was a trailblazer in many ways,” said Vince Patton, the eighth master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard and friend to Calhoun. “He was the first MCPOCG. He came into the job facing some tough challenges. There was a population on the enlisted side that didn’t want that kind of oversight to happen and there was the other side that welcomed it. He dealt with the opposition, and he changed the culture.” 

Of the many incredible attributes of the boat, there is one that stands out: The crew, up until February 2024, has had Master Chief Calhoun’s dress uniform onboard. The effort to receive Calhoun’s uniform was coordinated with Coast Guard Training Center Petaluma in January 2023. Since then, the uniform, which has been maintained by careful and diligent hands, has become a symbol of pride for the crew.  

Chief Matt Hall, the boat’s chief mess president and the damage control and repair division chief, was previously custodian of the uniform. 

“We are very well aware of the significance of this uniform,” Hall said. “It’s really highlighted when we go through the Chief’s Call to Initiation where we learn and carry on the history of the Coast Guard. To be able to see over a 50-year period since the inception of the master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard and having that uniform on the namesake ship for him has been a pretty remarkable moment for all of us.” 

In late February 2024, the National Coast Guard Museum team temporarily took possession of Calhoun’s uniform to prepare it for commissioning day. The Museum team will design a modest exhibit space solely for the commissioning in one of two hangars on the boat. It will offer guests an opportunity to celebrate the momentous day, soak in Coast Guard history, and honor a man who gave so much to his country and the Coast Guard.  

“Our motto [is]Never Give Up, and we’ve pretty much been living the motto since acceptance,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Aaron DeLuca, the Calhoun’s command senior enlisted leader and the main propulsion division senior chief. “The cutter has gone up against some significant challenges getting out of the Yard, and no matter what, the crew keeps reporting in and getting to the next challenge or hurdle and continues to push forward. The fact is that everybody still comes in and really wants to see this all through to completion and absolutely never give up.”