Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier commissioned in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier salute during the commissioning ceremony at Coast Guard Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jan. 29, 2016. The Joseph Napier is the 15th fast response cutter to be commissioned. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Barney)

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier salute during the commissioning ceremony at Coast Guard Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jan. 29, 2016. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Barney)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier was commissioned into service during a ceremony at U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico, Friday afternoon.

The Joseph Napier is the fifteenth Fast Response Cutter FRC to be commissioned in the Coast Guard and the third to be homeported in Puerto Rico.

“I am very excited about the commissioning of the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier,” said Rear Adm. Scott Buschman, commander of the 7th Coast Guard District. “The Joseph Napier is the third addition to the fleet patrolling the waters off Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean Basin.  Today’s event not only provides us with an opportunity to highlight the vast operational capability and efficiency of the cutter Napier, but to reflect and honor the bravery of the Napier’s namesake, a man who showed true heroism and courage during multiple rescues on the Great Lakes.”

‘It is a tremendous honor and privilege to command one of the finest ships the Coast Guard has ever had,” said Lt. Ryan Newmeyer, commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier. “The Joseph Napier will be a tremendous asset to Coast Guard efforts to combat transnational organized crime in the Eastern Caribbean as well as a sentinel for all those who take to the sea.  My crew and I are excited to join the active Coast Guard fleet and make our mark on the distinguished 225 year history of the Coast Guard.”

The Sentinel Class Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) are designed to conduct maritime drug interdiction, alien migrant interdiction, search and rescue, national defense, homeland security, living marine resource protection and other Coast Guard missions. This class of patrol boat is capable of deploying independently to execute Coast Guard missions and prevent potential threats from approaching our shores and offers vastly improved capabilities over the aging 110-foot Island class patrol boats it replaces. The FRC is part of the Coast Guard’s layered approach to maritime security that includes the National Security Cutter and the Offshore Patrol Cutter.  The FRC’s are 154-feet long with a beam of 25 feet and they can transit at a maximum sustained speed of 28 knots. They are armed with a stabilized 25mm machine-gun mount and four crew served with .50-caliber machine guns.

Each FRC is named for a Coast Guard hero who distinguished him or herself in the line of duty. This vessel is named after the Coast Guard hero Joseph Napier.

On 10 October 1877, Capt. Joseph A. Napier, Keeper of Life-Boat Station No. 6 (Saint Joseph, Michigan), commanded a rescue mission for which he was awarded the first Gold Lifesaving Medal.

His heroic actions leading to the award reads in summary:  “for the daring gallantry he displayed in rescuing the crew of the schooner D. G. Williams, near the harbor of Saint Joseph, Michigan on the 10th of October 1877.  The schooner lay stranded during a heavy gale on the outer bar, with the sea breaking over her, and her unfortunate crew of six men up in the rigging for safety.  Capt. Napier got together three volunteers, commandeered a boat, and pushed out for the wreck.  At the first attempt the boat was capsized in the breakers.  On the second try he reached the wreck and returned with two of the sailors.  The third trip the boat was completely filled with water by the sea breaking over it, but was bailed, and again reached the vessel, bearing off two men.  At the fourth attempt Capt. Napier and his three assistants were thrown out of the boat by a furious surge and one of his legs was badly hurt.  One of the men swam ashore and another got a line flung to him from the wreck and was taken aboard.  Capt. Napier and the other man, clinging to the boat, succeeded in righting and bringing it alongside the schooner.  They then took off the two remaining men of her crew, together with the man taken on board, and regained the shore in safety.”

Capt. Napier was 88 years old at the time of his death on 11 June 1914.  The headline of the newspaper announcement of his death read:  “Lakes Hero Is Dead – Capt. Napier Saved 60 Lives.”  The announcement went on to mention that Capt. Napier had spent 40 years on the Great Lakes.

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