Each year the Coast Guard presents the Commodore Ellsworth P. Bertholf Award to a member of Congress who exemplifies the spirit of Bertholf by making substantial contributions in support of the men and women of the United States Coast Guard and enhances the ability of the service to carry out its missions. This year’s recipient is Sen. Mary Landrieu.
The name Ellsworth P. Bertholf may not sound familiar, but he holds an especially important place of honor in the service’s 223 years of service to the nation. Throughout Bertholf’s career – which included the legendary Overland Expedition – he exhibited courage without equal, and in 1911 he was named commandant of the Revenue Cutter Service. Shortly after assuming his leadership position, a presidential report was released recommending the complete dissolution of the Revenue Cutter Service and the transfer of the U.S. Life-Saving Service. Bertholf was thrust into a struggle to save his beloved service.
Bertholf spoke powerfully to citizens, Congress and the administration about his vision of a service with unparalleled value to the nation; he spoke of the Coast Guard as we have come to know it today – a military, multi-mission and maritime service. In 1915, his determination and advocacy led to the merger of the Revenue Cutter Service and the U.S. Life-Saving Service to form the present-day United States Coast Guard. Bertholf was named the first commandant, and the new service prospered under his leadership.
While the service has continued to evolve over time to meet the nation’s many maritime needs, the need for strong supporters and advocates of the service has not. The Commodore Ellsworth P. Bertholf Award recognizes these leaders and supporters, including this year’s award recepient Sen. Mary Landrieu. During 2012, Landrieu was a supporter of the Coast Guard within the U.S. Senate. As chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, she championed a Senate mark of the Coast Guard’s fiscal year 2013 appropriations that funded six fast response cutters. Moreover, funding was provided for the sixth national security cutter; long-lead time and materials for the seventh national security cutter; design and pre-acquisition funding for the offshore patrol cutter project and two maritime patrol aircraft. Overall, this legislation provided $9 billion in discretionary spending for the Coast Guard for the service to properly replace its aging fleet of ships, aircraft and infrastructure.
But her support was not isolated to just the Coast Guard’s resources as she championed an additional $10 million in housing funding to support Coast Guard members and their families.
“The Coast Guard will be forever in my heart and in the hearts of many Louisianians after they heroically saved the lives of more than 30,000 people following hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” said Landrieu. “That was one of the many bright moments in the history of the Coast Guard. Every day these brave men and women carry out important missions to keep our country safe, including search and rescue, oil spill response, port security and drug interdiction. As chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, I am committed to ensuring that our Coast Guard has the resources and tools they need to continue serving and protecting our country with such distinction.”