‘The heart of the ship’: New commander takes the helm of Coast Guard Cutter Diligence

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Former commander of the Diligence, Jeffrey Randall, shakes the hand of a seaman. Photos Christina Haley.
Former commander of the Diligence, Jeffrey Randall, shakes the hand of a seaman. Photo by Christina Haley.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Diligence is now under new command.

The Diligence’s commanding officer, Jeffrey K. Randall, was relieved Thursday by the crew’s new commander, Justin Matthew (Matt) Carter, during a change of command ceremony at Cape Fear Community College’s downtown campus.

Carter has served the U. S. Coast Guard for 16 years in a variety of assignments at sea and ashore as a surface operations and intelligence officer. His most recent intelligence assignment was executive officer of the Coast Guard Cryptologic Unit Texas at NSA/CSS Texas in San Antonio, Texas.

Raised in Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Carter said he is happy to be back on the East Coast with his wife and two daughters.

Cmdr. Justin M. Carter
Cmdr. Justin M. Carter. Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard.

“I’m just really proud and honored to be here,” Carter said. “This is a great city, a great ship, fantastic crew and…as a family, we’re really happy to be back on the East Coast. Sea duties are challenging but it’s very rewarding. And I’m really excited to get out there and get going.”

His feelings going into his role as the new Diligence commander are ones of excitement and an eagerness to get to work. Carter said he takes pride in his service and to be able to work with the “fine crew” of the Diligence.

When asked about what he hopes to accomplish in the next two years as commander of the Diligence, Carter said he will lead the crew as best as he can.

“That’s my number one job–to take care of them, to accomplish the mission, to make sure that they grow professionally and personally, and to bring them all home safe,” Carter said.

After serving as commander on the Diligence, Randall’s next role with the U.S. Coast Guard is to serve as Chief of Operational Forces in Portsmouth, Virginia. There, he will be supervising all the East Coast cutters, helicopter intermission squadrons and all the U.S. Coast Guard’s deployable specialized forces, such as the maritime and securities teams.

Randall, a native of Abilene, Texas, assumed his role as commander of the Diligence in July 2013. In his two years serving on the Diligence, Randall said he and his crew have had “a whole range of experiences.”

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Diligence receive orders from their new commander.
The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Diligence receive orders from their new commander. Photo by Christina Haley.

“We’ve had Christmas underway [when] there’s a polar vortex winter and 60 mph winds, to doing six to seven day boarding down in the deep Caribbean looking for drugs, to migrant interdictions,” Randall said.

Under Randall’s command, the Diligence served as a front-line cutter while conducting six multi-mission patrols. Throughout Diligence’s six patrols, the crew traveled more than 32,000 nautical miles, conducted 135 boardings, 553 helicopter evolutions and executed five search and rescues.

But out of the many experiences he had as commander, Randall said his most treasured moments on the Diligence was watching the more than 70 crew members grow professionally and personally.

“To pick one [moment] is hard. But I think the one I cherish the most, or will remember the most, is all the experiences that I had [with the crew],” Randall said. “Watching their growth and development from the time they arrive to the time they depart; it was amazing to watch everybody, including myself, kind of grow and become…a better person and contribute to what we’re doing and making something.

“They are the heart of the ship. The ship is only the body and the skeleton…the ship will take on the personality of its crew. And I think if you look at the Diligence, for a ship that’s 51 years old, you can see what kind heart it has.”

Pictured, from left: Cmdr. Matt Carter, Capt. Douglas Fears and Cmdr. Randall. Photo by Christina Haley.
Pictured, from left: Cmdr. Matt Carter, Capt. Douglas Fears and Cmdr. Randall. Photo by Christina Haley.