UPDATED: New Coast Guard commander in Morgan City
Thursday’s U.S. Coast Guard ceremony at Morgan City Municipal Auditorium celebrated change. But the event also sent a message that the Coast Guard’s commitment to the area continues.
At the ceremony, Cmdr. Heather R. Mattern officially took command of the Coast Guard’s Morgan City Marine Safety Unit, with its compliment of 125 people. Mattern succeeds Capt. Blake Welborn, who became the Morgan City unit’s commander a year ago and is now in command of the Houma Marine Safety Unit. He replaces Cmdr. Gretchen Bailey, who is being reassigned to the East Coast.
Although Welborn is assuming command in Houma, he will remain captain of the port for the area that includes Morgan City.
“But I want to reassure the people of Morgan City that the Coast Guard service levels within Morgan City will not drop, will not change,” Welborn told the audience Thursday. “The Coast Guard maintains a strong marine safety presence here. We’ll continue to do our inspections. We’ll continue to patrol the waterways. We’ll continue to run our vessel traffic service to make sure our mariners are helped. …”
Mattern becomes the first woman to command the Morgan City Marine Safety Unit.
A Pennsylvania native, Mattern graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1998 and received a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. Her thesis, which focused on corrosion and welding in a marine environment, won the Surface Navy Association’s Award for Excellence in Warfare Research, according to information from the Coast Guard.
Mattern served as engineering officer about the USCGC Sherman and as a marine inspector in Philadelphia. For the last four years, she has been chief of Sector New York’s Inspections Division, supervising a staff of 40 inspectors.
“When I told people I was coming to Morgan City, the first thing they said was how great the crew is,” Mattern said at Thursday’s ceremony. “Well, to be honest, people talked a lot about the food, too, but the crew is the first thing they talk about.”
Mattern may have worked in New York City, but she has a small-town background. She is a native of Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, with its population of about 2,500.
“To find myself in a place with such a maritime focus,” Mattern said, “plus a festival focusing on a community celebrating not farms, tractors and overly large pumpkins, but shrimp and petroleum, well, it is an area a girl like me is happy to call home.”
Welborn, a native of Greenville, Texas, assumes command of a unit whose area includes a $305 billion offshore oil industry and 15,000 offshore workers.
“Marine Safety Unit,” Bailey said to her Houma staff, “you have the distinct honor of being the unit known as the epicenter of the energy renaissance.”
Welborn became the executive officer at Morgan City in 2010 and assumed command last June.
Before coming to Morgan City, Welborn had served in Port Arthur, the Virgin Islands, Galveston and Virginia.
He said he gave this advice to Mattern: “Take care of your people, and they’ll take care of you.”