The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Tony Gorman
For the Star 

Its back to school for Port Commander

Hawkins off to war college after he passes baton in June


The US Coast Guard Port Commander will be going from the head of the Valdez Marine Safety Unit to the head of the classroom later this summer.

Commander Benjamin Hawkins announced earlier this month at the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council's annual meeting that he is leaving the Valdez to study at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island

For him, it's an opportunity to get a difference perspective of the world outside the uniform.

"After doing three years here in this job and holding command, it's kind of an opportunity to put most of the uniforms in the closet for a year and take a step back and do some introspective thinking and look at some of the bigger pictures affecting the world and see what I can do for the Coast Guard after that," Hawkins said.

Hawkins will be studying international security and strategic studies at the Naval War College. The assignment will be added to an already impressive academic track record. Hawkins holds bachelor and master degrees from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the University of Michigan.

The rest of his resume is also impressive. Before coming to Valdez, Hawkins was part of several investigations including the 2008 sinking of the Alaska Ranger that claimed five lives. He took over the Valdez MSU for Commander Daryl Verfaillie in June 2011. During this time at the Valdez MSU, Hawkins worked closely with the community and other entities such as PWSRCAC to ensure the safety of the Port of Valdez.

Hawkins said he has collected many fond memories during his three years overseeing Prince William Sound.

Tony Gorman photo

Commander Benjamin Hawkins during a break at the recent PWSRCAC annual meeting in Valdez.

"There's a lot things that stick out," Hawkins said. "It's just so rewarding to see and appreciate the environment we were sent here to work with. You really get to work with the same people in a more interactive and deliberate manner you might not in a larger port. It's neat to develop and grow those relationships that are critical to getting the job done."

Hawkins said he sees himself and his family coming back to Alaska in the future with the Coast Guard.

Hawkins will be handing the reins of the Valdez Marine Safety Unit over to Commander Joseph Lally next month. Lally is currently the Chief of Inspections at the Coast Guard's Marine Inspection Office in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. There he makes sure the Coast Guard's vessels are compliant to federal regulations. Lally has an extensive background in western and Eastern Europe.

The Change of Command ceremony will be held Friday, June 27.


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