Cutter Steadfast under new command

Vice Adm. Charles W. Ray, commander of Coast Guard Pacific Area, stands with Capt. Charles G. Alcock (left), former commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast, and Cmdr. John R. Bitterman, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast, during a change-of-command ceremony at Seattle's Museum of History and Industry, after Bitterman assumed command from Alcock, July 15.

SEATTLE — The Steadfast has a new commander. During the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Steadfast’s dry-dock stay in July, Cmdr. John Bitterman relieved Capt. Charles Alcock in a change of command ceremony. Alcock transferred to Honolulu as chief of planning and force readiness for District 14.

The Steadfast returned to Astoria Aug. 1 after the 10-week maintenance period at Lake Union Dry Dock in Seattle. It completed more than $2.5 million required maintenance to help keep the vessel in service until 2030. Steadfast enters a training cycle now before returning to normal operations.

Commander of Pacific Area and Defense Force West Vice Adm. Charles Ray presided over the ceremony. Commands change every two years.

Bitterman is from Gleenwood Springs, Colo., and entered the Coast Guard in 1989. He has served aboard the cutters Clover in Eureka, Calif.; the Edisto in San Diego, including as commander; the Rush in Honolulu; and both the Alert and Steadfast in Astoria.

“Returning to a ship that I previously served on is an outstanding opportunity,” Bitterman said in an email.

“I am thrilled to be a part of the Steadfast’s illustrious history, and I look forward to many adventures with our exceptional crew.”

He’s also served in law enforcement Team 8-G in Galveston, Texas; at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C.; and in multiple other leadership positions throughout his career. Most recently, he served three years as the Coast Guard and police attaché in Bogotá, Colombia, for the U.S. Embassy.

“My intentions are to continue to actively engage with senior leaders and individuals in the Astoria area, as well as at the state, national and international levels,” Bitterman said.

He said his experience in Colombia allowed him to see U.S. foreign policy’s influence, and he will use what he learned there to help him continue to make positive connections within the community.

Bitterman’s principal awards include two Defense Meritorious Service Medal, three Coast Guard Commendation Medals, the 9/11 Medal, two Coast Guard Achievement medals, the Commandant’s Letter of Commendation, as well as the Colombian Naval Meritorious Service Medal, Colombian Coast Guard Meritorious Service Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal from the Colombian National Police.

The cutter Steadfast is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Astoria. It is one of only two cutters to receive the golden marijuana leaf for seizing over 1 million pounds of marijuana. This earned the Steadfast the nickname “El Tiburon Blanco,” “The White Shark” in Spanish, by Latin American drug traffickers.

The crew’s other missions include search and rescue, marine environmental response, recreational boating safety, port safety and security and law enforcement including: alien migrant interdiction, pollution prevention, marine sanctuary protection and fisheries enforcement.

‘Returning to a ship that I previously served on is an outstanding opportunity.’

— Cmdr. John Bitterman

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