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New commander takes over Steadfast

Balmaceda replaces Bolanos on Astoria-based cutter

Published on June 18, 2017 5:01PM

From left to right: Cmdr. Alain Balmaceda, Rear Adm. Pat DeQuattro and Cmdr. Jose Bolanos make their way toward a ceremony Friday to celebrate a change in command of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Steadfast.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian

From left to right: Cmdr. Alain Balmaceda, Rear Adm. Pat DeQuattro and Cmdr. Jose Bolanos make their way toward a ceremony Friday to celebrate a change in command of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Steadfast.

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Coast Guard Cmdr. Alain Balmaceda, left, salutes Rear Adm. Pat DeQuattro, right, during a change of command ceremony for the cutter Steadfast in Astoria Friday.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian

Coast Guard Cmdr. Alain Balmaceda, left, salutes Rear Adm. Pat DeQuattro, right, during a change of command ceremony for the cutter Steadfast in Astoria Friday.

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Cmdr. Jose Bolanos, center, inspects the personnel of the cutter Steadfast during a change of command ceremony Friday in Astoria.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian

Cmdr. Jose Bolanos, center, inspects the personnel of the cutter Steadfast during a change of command ceremony Friday in Astoria.

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Cmdr. Jose Bolanos, far left, performs the last personnel inspection of his command of the cutter Steadfast on Friday.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian

Cmdr. Jose Bolanos, far left, performs the last personnel inspection of his command of the cutter Steadfast on Friday.

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Rear Adm. Pat DeQuattro, center at podium, speaks at a change of command ceremony for the cutter Steadfast in Astoria on Friday.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian

Rear Adm. Pat DeQuattro, center at podium, speaks at a change of command ceremony for the cutter Steadfast in Astoria on Friday.

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A change of command ceremony for the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Steadfast drew dozens of attendees in Astoria on Friday.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian

A change of command ceremony for the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Steadfast drew dozens of attendees in Astoria on Friday.

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Balmaceda replaces Bolanos on Astoria-based cutter

By Edward Stratton

The Daily Astorian

The U.S. Coast Guard on Friday marked the retirement of 38-year veteran Cmdr. Jose Bolanos and transferred his command of the Astoria-based cutter Steadfast to Cmdr. Alain Balmaceda.

Bolanos took the helm of the Steadfast in 2015 from Mark Walsh, who had been brought in to finish the term of John Bitterman, who was relieved from his command in August 2015.

At nearly 50 years old, Steadfast is one of the Coast Guard’s older assets, patrolling the West Coast along North and Central America and enforcing marine laws and intercepting drugs, smugglers and migrants. But Bolanos said the real asset is the ship’s crew.

“Steadfast is just a vessel,” Bolanos said. “The real credit goes to the Coast Guard men and women who have sailed her.”

Under Bolanos, the Steadfast has intercepted more than 6,000 pounds of cocaine, 200 pounds of marijuana, 19 suspected drug smugglers and 28 undocumented immigrants, along with fisheries patrols and rescue missions. Bolanos highlighted one in which the crew came upon three Mexican fishermen waving frantically from their sinking boat.

“There’s no better feeling than knowing you have saved a life and they’re going home,” Bolanos said. “Over the past two years, the men and women of Steadfast have safely executed all our missions with pride, perseverance and professionalism.”

Bolanos said there is no greater feeling than a sunset at sea and the thrill of the chase. “Going to sea has been my calling in the Coast Guard, being on the tip of the spear.”

Bolanos is retiring to Mobile, Alabama, with his wife, Susanna, and five children Katherine, Wilson, Hannah, Sarah and Cooper. Replacing him is Balmaceda, who has more than 20 years in the Coast Guard since graduating from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He most recently served as deputy commander of the Coast Guard’s Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, overseeing 260 Coast Guardsmen and six patrol boats deployed in Bahrain in support of Middle East operations. He comes to Astoria with his wife, Ann-Marie Balmaceda, and their three children Isabel, Lucas and Mateo.

“I commit to my new shipmates that I will give nothing less than 110 percent,” Balmaceda said.

He said Bolanos was exactly what the Steadfast needed at such a critical time in its history.

Rear Adm. Pat DeQuattro, deputy commander of the Pacific Area command that overseas regional cutters, said the Coast Guard could just transfer command quietly. But no other civilian position equates with a commander of a ship carrying arms, he said, with the authority to use them in the service of the U.S.

“There are lives at stake,” he said. “The reputation of our service is at stake. And by extension thereof, the reputation of our nation is at stake.”

He called Bolanos a true professional whose passion for the service has been a lesson to all. The Steadfast, which returned from its last deployment in April, heads out on its next counter-drug mission in about a month.

“I ask that you now shift your loyalties to Cmdr. Balmaceda,” DeQuattro said.











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