Third day of Eagle activity in New London: Change of command ceremony
New London — What a great few days it's been for the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard barque Eagle and its port city.
The tall ship returned to its homeport in New London on Thursday after undergoing a five-year refurbishment in Baltimore.
On Friday, the National Coast Guard Museum Association hosted an official welcome party for the cutter and its crew.
On Saturday, with crew and cadets standing at attention under a tent on City Pier, and several past commanders of the Eagle looking on, Capt. Michael A. Turdo took over command from Capt. Matthew T. Meilstrup.
A 1997 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy who lives in East Lyme with his wife and two daughters, Turdo said he is honored to serve as the 29th commander of the Eagle and excited to re-establish it back into the fabric of New London.
"I look forward to sailing with each of you and the adventures that await us," he told the crew.
Turdo has 10 years of experience at sea and is designated a permanent cutterman. He is an old hand aboard the Eagle, having served as its executive officer in the past. His most recent assignment was as commanding officer of the Boston-based cutter Escanaba.
Meilstrup will move on to serve as division chief of external outreach and heritage for the Coast Guard.
"You have done simply amazing work," Meilstrup told the crew. "You are so special to me, and I couldn't be prouder to call you shipmate."
Vice Admiral Scott A. Buschman, commander of the Atlantic Area and Defense Force East, thanked Meilstrup for remarkable leadership of the Coast Guard training vessel over the past four years and presented him with a Legion of Merit award for outstanding service.
During Meilstrup's four-year command, the Eagle made 85 foreign and domestic port calls, carried more than 3,300 trainees, welcomed more than 250,000 visitors and sailed across the Atlantic twice, taking part in tall ship festivals such as the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, and the commemoration of Canada's 150th anniversary.
The Eagle accomplished so much while undergoing major repairs during winter drydock periods. The $28 million renovations included a new propulsion system, 3,000 square feet of hull replacement, refurbishment of crew and cadet berths and new small boats.
Since the cutter arrived home to New London, locals, including Mayor Michael Passero, have remarked and posted online that they love the view of the tall ship's rigging and flags as they walk or drive down State Street.
The Eagle serves as a training ship for cadets at the nearby Coast Guard Academy.
Built in 1936, it originally operated as a training ship for cadets in the German Navy. The ship was given to the United States as a reparation after World War II. In 1946, A U.S. Coast Guard Crew, assisted by the German crew still on board, sailed the tall ship from Bremerhaven, Germany, to New London.
Though the cutter is 83 years old, it always looks good, Buschman said.
Mayor Passero, area legislators and five former commanders of the Eagle attended the change of command ceremony, along with friends and family members of the two captains and crew. An onboard reception followed.
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