USCGC Fir has new commanding officer

From left, Lt. Cmdr. Michael H. Manuel, Rear Adm. Matthew T. Bell, Lt. Ryan Foust, Cmdr. Collin R. Bronson and Lt. Cmdr. Scott L. Shields. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard

Lt. Cmdr. Michael Manuel became the new commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Fir at a June 18 ceremony. Manuel relieved Cmdr. Collin Bronson as commanding officer of the 225-foot buoy tender.

“My family and I are extremely excited to be here,” Manuel said. “We’re Alaskans, through and through … We’re excited to get the opportunity to live here and to work as part of the Coast Guard in Prince William Sound.”

Manuel previously served aboard three other Alaskan buoy tenders: as deck watch officer aboard the USCGC Spar in Kodiak, as executive officer aboard the USCGC Naushon in Ketchikan, and as executive officer aboard the USCGC Hickory in Homer. However, the Fir is the first buoy tender Manuel has commanded.

Bronson has served on five other cutters in locations ranging from Seattle to Guam, including a tour as commander of the USCGC Sycamore beginning in 2017. Bronson took command of the Fir in 2019.

Bronson, who is currently training fleet crews in San Diego, described his time in Cordova as a “wonderful challenge” and said he regretted that the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to say farewell in a large ceremony including more of the community.

From left, Mayor Clay Koplin and Cmdr. Collin Bronson aboard the USCGC Fir. (June 18, 2020) Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard

“The ship and the crew were always well supported, no matter what happened — looming government shutdowns or pandemics or day-to-day stuff, I didn’t worry too much,” Bronson said. “No matter what happened, I knew Cordova would rise to the occasion and do whatever they could.”

The Fir’s principal mission is to service buoys near the coasts of Oregon and Washington and along the Columbia River, according to a U.S. Coast Guard fact sheet. Buoys serviced by the Fir are essential to commercial sea traffic in communities like Portland, Ore. and Seattle. Approximately one month per year, the Fir engages in fisheries law enforcement off the coasts of Oregon and Washington. In 2010, the Fir assisted in the cleanup response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.