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Press Release | April 19, 2024

New commanding officer at helm of USCGC Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) in Guam

U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam

SANTA RITA, Guam — Lt. Emma Saunders took command of USCGC Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) from Lt. Jalle Merritt in a change of command ceremony at Victor Pier in Apra Harbor, Guam, on April 19, 2024.

Capt. Nicholas Simmons, U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia Sector Guam commander, presided over the ceremony. 

Hailing from El Paso, Lt. Merritt is a 2015 U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduate with a degree in government, emphasizing international relations. After two years as commanding officer, she leaves Guam to join the vice commandant's staff as military aide.

Under her command, the crew of Myrtle Hazard operated in a 1.9 million sq. nautical mile area of responsibility, sailing over 23,000 nautical miles and visiting partner nations. The team served as the deputy commodore's platform during Pacific Partnership 2022, the Indo-Pacific's largest multinational humanitarian and disaster relief exercise, enhancing joint readiness with maritime agencies from the Republic of Palau, Taiwan, Japan, and the United Kingdom. 

They completed a 46-day expeditionary patrol across Oceania, marking historic bilateral boardings with Papua New Guinea, the interception and fishing activity termination of an illegally operating fishing vessel, and orchestrating the first U.S. Coast Guard port visit to Lae. Their operational acumen shone brightly in a critical 20-hour search operation in challenging 10-foot seas, ultimately rescuing two distressed mariners. 

They further displayed operational excellence through meticulous conduct during ten boardings and 12 observation reports of foreign fishing vessels, asserting international maritime governance on a subsequent Operation Rematau patrol. 

They played a pivotal role in four high-stakes escorts of the ballistic missile submarine, USS Maine (SSBN 741), through restricted waters and conducted welfare checks on isolated residents in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Mawar. Their unwavering commitment to duty and leadership significantly bolstered regional maritime security and governance.

Lt. Emma Saunders joined the USCGC Myrtle Hazard team after serving as the U.S. Coast Guard 5th District flag aide, where she adeptly managed the commander's schedule, event preparation, and office personnel. 

Before this role, Saunders showcased her maritime skills and leadership on USCGC Alex Haley (WMEC 39) in Kodiak, Alaska, as a deck watch officer and first lieutenant, navigating the challenging Bering Sea, supervising over 30 crew members, and overseeing essential operations from small boat and flight activities to deck maintenance. Her journey continued as executive officer on USCGC Mustang (WPB 1310) in Seward, Alaska, where she excelled in personnel management, served as a senior deck watch officer and boarding officer, and navigated the crew to prime fishing locales in the Gulf of Alaska. She embodies a deep passion for the sea and its maritime traditions. Hailing from Chicago, Lt. Saunders is a 2018 U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree.

The Myrtle Hazard is the 39th 154-foot Sentinel-class FRC, named in honor of the first enlisted woman in the U.S. Coast Guard who served as an electrician and radio operator. The Guam-based cutters are a cornerstone for the U.S. Coast Guard's ongoing commitment to the people of Oceania, focusing on maritime safety, security, and stewardship. It homeports in Guam, working under U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam, which comprises nearly 300 personnel to provide a significant portion of the U.S. Coast Guard's enduring regional presence in Oceania.


About U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam:
U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam is critical in promoting Pacific maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship. The sector's capabilities are integral to executing a wide range of Coast Guard missions, from protecting the maritime economy and the environment to defending maritime borders and saving those in peril.