ILWACO — After 141 years, U.S. Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment welcomed its first female commander during a time-honored ceremony Monday morning.
Lt. Jessica Shafer was formally put in charge of the station where she served between 2002 and 2006 with the neighboring National Motor Lifeboat School. In an amusing echo in time, 14 years ago in June 2004, she was a top finisher in the annual Beach to Chowder Run, the 2018 edition of which was held last weekend.
During Monday’s traditional military ceremony, departing Lt. Cdr. Thomas Condit transferred command to Shafer, with Capt. Bill Timmons, commander of Sector Columbia River, presiding over the occasion.
Shafer most recently served as executive officer at Station Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Shafer received her officer commissioning in 2013 after starting her Coast Guard career in 2002 as an enlisted member. Her first assignment out of Training Center Cape May, New Jersey was at the National Motor Lifeboat School, which partners with Station Cape Disappointment. During her enlisted career, Shafer earned her coxswain, heavy weather coxswain, tactical coxswain and surfman qualifications as well as multiple boarding officer certifications.
“Surfman” is among the Coast Guard’s highest-level qualifications. In 2006, Cape D’s Beth Slade was the only woman in the entire active Coast Guard with the rank, which allows those who have it to drive boats on search-and-rescue missions in the most dangerous conditions. As of this March, there were only four active-duty female surfmen.
All Shafer’s experience will come in handy at Cape D, one of the nation’s busiest maritime search-and-rescue facilities. Operations at the cape and adjacent waters known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific” began in 1877 under auspices of the U.S. Life-Saving Service, which merged with another agency in 1915 to become the Coast Guard. Cape D was home to the Life-Saving Service’s first full-time crew in 1882.
Condit will be reporting to the International Training Division at Training Center Yorktown, Va., as the branch chief of the Mobile Training Team.
During Condit’s three years commanding Cape D, “he supervised and ensured the safety of 80 active duty and reserve crew members while they executed more than 1,100 cases saving or assisting 308 lives and $40 million in property. He accumulated more than 240 hours underway while managing one of only two surf stations in the Coast Guard with Level One Ports Waterway and Coastal Security responsibilities,” the Coast Guard said in a press release. “His crews executed 582 law enforcement boardings and conducted 50 PWCS [Ports, Waterways and Coastal Security] missions, helping safeguard the Columbia River’s $24 billion maritime transportation system. Condit and his leadership team oversaw initial certifications of four surfmen, 12 tactical coxswains and more than 150 crewman.”
Condit has been an active member of the local community during his tour of duty in south Pacific County. He was promoted from lieutenant to lieutenant commander in July 2016 while stationed here.