Source: United States Coast Guard
Coast Guard Cutter Munro holds modified change-of-command ceremony
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ALAMEDA, Calif. — Capt. Blake L. Novak relieved Capt. James C. Estramonte as commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) Friday during a modified change-of-command ceremony aboard the cutter while moored at Coast Guard Base Alameda.
“Today, the COVID-19 pandemic prevents our traditional change-of-command celebration,” said Vice Adm. Linda L. Fagan, commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area during a prerecorded video for the ceremony. “Preserving the health of our community and ensuring the Coast Guard is ready to serve the nation are my top priorities. However, it is still important to observe the manners of our sea going profession. Although Munro’s change of command ceremony looks different, its purpose is the same.”
Novak reported to Munro from the 11th Coast Guard District, headquartered in Alameda, where he served as the chief of enforcement. Novak oversaw the Coast Guard’s enforcement of U.S. laws, from the protection of marine resources to drug and migrant interdiction efforts, covering an area off the coast of California to the high seas of the Eastern Pacific. His efforts supported the seizure of more than 350,000 pounds of cocaine.
Following the change of command, Estramonte reported to the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area in Alameda where he will serve as the chief of staff.
Estramonte served as Munro’s commanding officer from May 2018 to May 2020 and supported Coast Guard efforts throughout the Pacific region. Under his command, Munro’s crew conducted 10 at-sea-inspections of foreign-flagged vessels, enforcing Western & Central Fisheries Commission regulations and interdicted 11 drug-laden vessels, seizing more than 40,000 pounds of narcotics worth an estimated wholesale value over $700 million.
Notably, Munro’s boarding teams interdicted a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel on June 18, 2019, seizing more than 17,000 pounds of cocaine, resulting in the largest Coast Guard seizure in four years.
“It has been an absolute honor to be the commanding officer of the Munro these past two years,” said Estramonte. “We excelled in every challenge presented, and the crew exceeded my expectations along the way. We had many highlights, including representing the Coast Guard at Signalman First Class Douglas Munro’s memorial in Honiara, Solomon Islands, in 2018 and hosting Vice President Pence for the Coast Guard’s fourth largest drug offload. Serving aboard a cutter named for the Coast Guard’s greatest hero has been very special. We were able to provide great service to the nation in keeping illegal drugs off the street, highlighted by the ‘Alto Su Barco’ takedown of a self-propelled semi-submersible in 2019. It’s been a remarkable couple of years, and I am proud to turn over command of Munro to my friend, Capt. Blake Novak, who inherits a hard-charging crew in, what I believe to be, the finest cutter in the Coast Guard.”
The change-of-command ceremony is a historic military tradition that represent the formal transfer of authority and responsibility for a unit from one commanding officer to another. The event reinforces the continuity of command and provides an opportunity to celebrate the crew’s accomplishments.
“The racing stripe on Munro’s hull is a symbol around the world for the rule of law, good maritime governance and hope,” said Fagan. “During these past two years under Capt. Estramonte’s leadership, the men and women of Munro were adding to the Coast Guard’s rich legacy.”