Helgen to Take the Helm of Coast Guard Cutter Roanoke Island

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Lt. Eric A. Helgen will relieve Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin F. Strickland II as the ship’s commanding officer at 1:30 p.m., Thursday, in Homer, aboard the 110-foot Roanoke Island.

“I have really enjoyed my tour here in Alaska,” said Strickland. “Trusting your people is the most important thing you can do.”

Strickland, a native of Issaquah, Wash., and his family will be transferring to the East Coast where Strickland will attend the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He will obtain a master’s degree in National Security Studies before attending the Naval Operation Planner’s Course where he will participate with Department of Defense (DoD) counterparts on a real world problem for one of the DoD theater commanders.

Strickland is a licensed Merchant Mariner and a 1995 graduate of Maine Maritime Academy. Upon graduation from MMA, he activated his reserve commission and served in the Navy as a surface warfare officer. His initial assignment at sea was on the U.S.S. Hopper, home ported in Pearl Harbor. He served as the electronic warfare officer and later first lieutenant.

In 1998, Strickland transferred to the Coast Guard where he was assigned to Marine Safety Office Puget Sound, Wash. There he qualified as a senior marine inspector for both domestic and foreign vessels. He also served as the unit special interest vessel officer, supervising the tracking and reporting of high-interest shipping for national intelligence agencies.

In 2000, he returned to sea-duty as the weapons officer on the Coast Guard Cutter Sherman, completing patrols in the Bering Sea and Eastern Pacific. During this tour, the crew of the Sherman also conducted an out of hemisphere deployment to the Arabian Gulf, serving as SAG Commander for Middle East Force 01-1 and Maritime Interdiction Operations Coordinator (XJ) for the Harry S. Truman Battlegroup. Upon leaving the Fifth Fleet, the Sherman transited home to Alameda via circumnavigation of the world.

In 2002, Strickland was assigned as the Coast Guard liaison officer at Afloat Training Group Pacific Northwest in Everett, Wash. There he supervised afloat training and assessment for three different classes of cutters as the Pacific Area Commander’s direct representative.

From 2004 to 2006, he served as operations officer on the Coast Guard Cutter Midgett in Seattle, again conducting search and rescue, fisheries and counter-drug missions from as far north as the U.S./Russia Maritime Boundary Line to as far south as the equator. Strickland assumed command of the Roanoke Island in July 2006 following the tour aboard Midgett.

Helgen, native of Rapid City, S.D., is coming from Kuwait where he recently served as the Officer-in-Charge of Forward Operating Base Kuwait Naval Base. In this position he coordinated operations, engineering, logistics and support for six 110-foot patrol boats and five Navy patrol craft. Helgen also served as the Coast Guard liaison officer between the Kuwaiti navy, U.S. Embassy, and U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel.

He received his commission in 1998 upon graduating from the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Government Studies. Assigned to cutter Active (WMEC 618) at Port Angeles, Wash., immediately after graduation, Helgen served as the combat information center officer, support services department head, law enforcement officer, and boarding officer. Aboard Active Helgen conducted counter-narcotics operations in the Eastern Pacific and fisheries law enforcement off the coast of Washington and Oregon.

Following that tour Helgen served on the Pacific Area operations staff in the cutter forces section in Alameda. He managed major cutter deployment schedules and budgets. He also maintained oversight of the Pacific Area Tactical Law Enforcement Team and served as the Pacific Area patrol boat program manager.

After the 9/11 attacks, Helgen helped stand up the Sea Marshal program in San Francisco Bay and assisted in the initial conceptual development of the Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST) program in the Pacific Area.

Helgen then served as the operations officer on the Cutter Morgenthau (WHEC 722) in Alameda, where he planned and executed Eastern Pacific counter-narcotics deployments off the Mexican, Central and South American coasts, Bering Sea deployments along the U.S./Russia Maritime Boundary Line, search and rescue standby in support of the 2003 Bristol Bay red king crab season, as well as homeland security operations in San Diego, Los Angeles/Long Beach and San Francisco at the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom hostilities.

Following his tour on the Morgenthau, Helgen served as the executive officer of the Pacific Area Training Team also in Alameda. Here he coordinated patrol boat damage control and emergency procedures, small boat station, fisheries, and law enforcement training for all units in the Pacific Area.

Helgen was then assigned as the seventh commanding officer of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) in the Northern Arabian Gulf. There he commanded the 110-foot patrol boats Adak, Monomoy, Maui, Baranof, and Aquidneck. During his tour he accumulated 3,144 operational hours in only five months, supporting Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and defending Iraq’s two offshore oil terminals, the Al Basra Oil Terminal and the Khwar Al Amaya Oil Terminal.

The Coast Guard Cutter Roanoke Island is one of a series of 49 Island Class patrol boats built by Bollinger Machine Shop and Shipyard in Lockport, La.

The 110-foot Island Class Coast Guard cutters are built upon a British patrol boat design created by Vosper-Thornycraft. The vessels replaced the Coast Guard’s 95-foot Cape Class patrol boat fleet in the late 1980s.

Roanoke Island is named for an island off the coast of North Carolina. There are five additional 110-foot Island Class patrol boats based in Alaska: the Anacapa in Petersburg, the Liberty in Juneau, the Mustang in Seward, the Long Island in Valdez and the Naushon in Ketchikan.

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