Coast Guard commander permanently relieved of post

Capt. John Bitterman, left, former commander of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Steadfast, is shown here during a tour of the ship. He has been permanently relieved of command due to a loss of confidence in his leadership.

The U.S. Coast Guard has permanently relieved the former commander of the cutter Steadfast, citing a loss of confidence in his ability to maintain the efficiency, morale and well-being of the unit and his crew.

Cmdr. John Bitterman had been temporarily relieved of duty from the Astoria-based cutter in April.

“The Coast Guard holds those in command to the highest levels of professionalism, proficiency and dedication,” Lt. Donnie Brzuska, the public affairs officer of the Coast Guard Pacific Area Command in Alameda, Calif., said in a statement.

“The Coast Guard conducted a thorough and comprehensive administrative investigation prior to relieving Cmdr. Bitterman. The Coast Guard lost confidence in Cmdr. Bitterman’s ability to serve as a commanding officer and maintain the efficiency, morale and well-being of the unit and his crew.

“Because the relief and the investigation were administrative in nature, I cannot release any more details. However, the Coast Guard acted in the best interest of the crew of Steadfast to ensure a positive working environment.”

Bitterman, according to Brzuska, has been reassigned to Coast Guard Sector Columbia River in Astoria.

Cmdr. Mark Walsh from Coast Guard Leadership Development Center in New London, Conn., is acting as the temporary commanding officer of the Steadfast.

Bitterman, who took command of the Steadfast in July 2014, had been the commanding officer of the cutter Edisto in San Diego and was the Coast Guard’s Police Attaché in Bogota, Colombia.

The Steadfast, a 210-foot medium-endurance cutter based at the 17th Street Dock in Astoria, patrols from the Pacific Northwest to South America.

After Bitterman was temporarily relieved from the Steadfast in April, his attorney at the time described the commander as a whistleblower who was retaliated against for drawing attention to the poor condition of the 47-year-old vessel.

Bitterman could not be reached for comment Thursday through Sector Columbia River.

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