Outgoing cutter commander thanks Cordova

Jarnac: Sycamore’s crew is the best crew in the U.S. Coast Guard fleet

“For some it’s hard, for others easy, remember, its atop that rolling swell you see what has been unseen; a far-off boat to board, that mariner in distress with sore eyes from scouring the sea for you, as you have for them. A last chance to pull them from the merciless grasp we know as an unforgiving sea. That cold spray that seems to dull your senses, a quick reminder of who you are and where you are. You are a mortal, a human, cresting the rolling swell, in a sea that gives everything and can take everything in a moment’s notice.” – excerpt from “The Sea,” by Machinery Technician 2, Jay Abbott, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore 2014-2017, which appeared in the command ceremony program.

U.S. Coast Guard’s Cmdr. James “Jim” Jarnac officially relinquished command of the Cutter Sycamore, homeported in Cordova, to Lt Cmdr Collin Bronson June 1, during the change of command ceremony at the Coast Guard pier.

“Command at sea is an amazing opportunity and I am eternally grateful that the Coast Guard has trusted me with the Sycamore and her crew,” said Jarnac, who served three years as commander of the Sycamore, beginning in June 2014. “I am a Coast Guard seagoing officer through and through, and there is no greater honor than to serve in command of one of our ships,” he said.

At one point during the ceremony, Jarnac’s voice wavered and his eyes visibly teared up as he credited his wife, Jo Ann Jarnac, for her unwavering support.

“There is no way I could have done this without you by my side. Every day, for the past three years, (Jo Ann) has been my most-trusted counsel, my best friend, a wonderful mother to our somewhat crazy four-legged daughter Cleo, and a source of inspiration,” he said. “I consider myself the luckiest husband in the world.”

The Jarnacs will make their new home in Charleston, South Carolina, where Commander Jarnac will report as the Executive Officer of the Coast Guard Cutter James.


Prior to his assignment in Cordova, Bronson served in the external affairs at the 11th Coast Guard District Headquarters in Alameda, Calif., where he worked with Congress, U.S. agencies and foreign governments on Coast Guard related issues.

Bronson, a native of southern California, his wife Jessica Snyder, and their daughter Elizabeth Ann, are presently at home in Cordova.

The change of command ceremony is a time-honored tradition in the Coast Guard, which formally restates to the ship’s company that the continuity of authority of command be maintained. Deeply rooted in U.S. Coast Guard history, the formal rite is unique to the Armed Forces, and publically underscores the distinctive nature of command, according to Coast Guard literature, signifying the complete transfer of responsibility, authority and accountability for command from one commander to another, marking the end of one segment of the command’s history, and signaling a new one.

Capt. Scott Bornemann, chief of prevention with the 17th Coast Guard District, presided over the event, with Lt. Andrea Rice, executive officer, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore, as master of ceremony. Lt. Richard Bristol, chaplain of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, performed the invocation, and Lt.j.g. Tony Seleznick, operations officer, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore, acted as platoon leader.

During the last three years under Jarnac’s command, the crew of the Sycamore worked alongside crews with the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Maple, Hickory, Spar, Anthony Petit, Alex Haley, Chandeleur, and Mustang, Coast Guard Station Valdez, Marine Safety Unit Valdez, U.S. Coast Guard Kodiak, U.S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Kodiak, U.S. Coast Guard Ketchikan base, and the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Dutch Harbor.

“The Coast Guard mission in Alaska requires teamwork and professionalism, and everyone we’ve worked with has delivered on both fronts. I’ve never experienced teamwork like I have between Sycamore and Air Station Kodiak. I didn’t know that level of cooperation existed and am fortunate to have been the beneficiary,” Jarnac said.

Jarnac said the Sycamore’s crew is the best crew in the U.S. Coast Guard fleet, and proved it by earning the Coast Guard’s Alaska Foundation Award, the Overall Operational Readiness Excellence Award, the Special Operations Service Ribbon and the Arctic Service Medal.

“Shipmates come and go, but the tone and tenor has remained the same. Together, we’ve sailed through the Inside Passage, the Gulf of Alaska, the waters of Kodiak and the Shumagin Islands, the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. We’ve been to the Arctic, Seattle, and all points between,” he said. “Through it all, you have demonstrated professionalism, initiative, ingenuity, teamwork, and an unparalleled level of competence. Your dedication to District 17 and Coast Guard goals is evident. You, shipmates, are my heroes. You put everything on the line for people you don’t even know, and you perform flawlessly, without complaint. I stand in awe of all that you have achieved. May the mountains of Cordova echo with your laughter and the roar of your success. Best crew in the fleet – thank you!”

Jarnac said he was grateful to the Native Village of Eyak for their friendship and support of the Sycamore.

“They extend some of the finest and most sincere hospitality I’ve ever received,” he said. “Thanks for the invites to appreciation dinners, and most importantly, thank you for inviting me to speak at the annual sobriety celebration. That’s a tremendous event that makes a real impact in the community.”

NVE’s Sobriety Celebration takes place annually in November, and Jarnac was a keynote speaker last year.

City officials, including Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin, Native Village of Eyak Tribal Council President Darrel Olsen and NVE tribal elders, and friends of the former commander and his wife, attended the dockside ceremony.

“Friends from Cordova: Thank you so much for the hospitality you have shown Jo Ann and me. There will always be a place in our hearts for Cordova,” he said.

“It’s been my pleasure to work with (former) mayor Jim Kacsh and Mayor Koplin, as well as city managers Randy Robertson (former), and Alan Lanning. Scot Mitchel, and Sam Blackadar, from the Cordova Community Medical Center, have been great friends to Sycamore. Mim (Hodges), you greeted Jo Ann and I three years ago at Laura’s, and treated us like friends from day one. We’ll miss your smile and quick wit,” he said.

Jarnac also spoke fondly of the Cordova Moose Lodge 1266 for providing a safe and reasonably priced place for the Sycamore’s crew to socialize. “Steve (Johnson), I rest easy knowing they’re in your establishment,” he said.

Jarnac also thanked Brian Wildrick and Lindsay Butters, of Harborside Pizza; the contingent of retired Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers in Cordova; Bob Henrichs; Belen and Joe Cook; Sally and Weston Bennett; Gayle Groff; Debbie Collins; Barb Jewell; Alex and Tamara Russin; Cathy Sherman; Jarnac’s mother-in-law and father-in-law, Pete and Anna Marie Tonsich, of Long Beach, Calif., who were present for the ceremony; Cordova Chief of Police Mike Hicks; Cordova Harbormaster Tony Schinella; Mark Frohnapfel; Kevin Kimber; and the families of those serving onboard the Sycamore.

“You are the reason we excel and the reason we come home. You have contributed mightily to the community and I commend you for integrating. You teach at the schools, volunteer with the Girl Scouts, you volunteer at the fire department, you work with local businesses. The spouses’ club has raised enough money to award six $500 scholarships to local kids and you’ve hosted movie nights, breakfast with Santa, and have volunteered at local sporting events,” he said.

“Our lives are unquestionably better because of our time here. Our impression is that Cordovans are passionate, intelligent, resilient, incredibly resourceful and care deeply about their future, whether its fishing, sustainability, or the economy. It’s been inspiring to witness,” he said.

Following the reading of orders by Jarnac and Bronson, Cmdr. Jarnac was presented with the commissioning pennant, colors which flew high on the Sycamore during Jarnac’s command.

The commissioning pennant is a distinctive mark of a Coast Guard cutter that is under command of a commissioned officer. Its hoisting is the central event in both the commissioning and change of command of a ship. From the time the pennant is raised until the vessel is decommissioned, the pennant is flown 24-hours a day from the aftermost masthead.

The commissioning pennant that flew during Jarnac’s leadership was replaced with a new one. Following Coast Guard tradition, the retired pennant was presented to Jarnac.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore’s crew includes Executive Officer Lt. Andrea Rice; Lt. j.g. Tony Seleznick; Lt. j.g. Samantha Cardoza; Ensign Kristine Kahl; Ensign Maureen Smolskis; Boatswain’s Mate 1 Mark Swayne; Culinary Specialist 1 Steve Carson; Electrician Technician 1 Ryan Torbett; Electrician Technician 1 Jay Tracy; Health Services Technician 1 Vincent Fabunan; Information Technician 1 Bryan Christensen; Store Keeper 1 Richard Thomas; Boatswain’s Mate 2 Randall Manion; Yeoman 2 Juan Sandoval; Boatswain’s Mate 3 Nathan Kennedy; Culinary Services 3 Devin Bright; Culinary Services 3 Tyler Cline; Culinary Services 3 Katelynn McCulloch; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Scott; Boatswain’s Mate Chief Jeremy Norbryhn; Boatswain’s Mate 1 James Helmke; Boatswain’s Mate 2 Jason Todd; Boatswain’s Mate 2 Christopher Mendez Lopez; Boatswain’s Mate 3 Nathaniel Crandell; Seaman Taylor Frankenstein; Seaman Bridget Hendrix; Seaman Tyler Young; Seaman Apprentice Demetrus Forbes; Seaman Apprentice Nicholas Parr; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Clegg; Electrician’s Mate Chief Patrick Kuhn; Machinery Technician Chief Daniel Clark; Damage Controlman 1 Daniel Howard; Electrician’s Mate 1 Robert Kecken; Machinery Technician 1 Joshua Walker; Machinery Technician 2 Jay Abbott; Machinery Technician 2 Travis Smith; Electrician’s Mate 2 Joseph Walp; Damage Controlman 3 Craig Campbell; Damage Controlman 3 Nicholas Rhoades; Electrician’s Mate 3 Jacob Moore; Electrician’s Mate 3 Eliyah Sherwood; Electrician’s Mate 3 Jerrelle McCabe; Machinery Technician 3 Ryker McMurray; Machinery Technician 3 Shaina Murray; Machinery Technician 3 Katharine Salzmann; Machinery Technician 3 Kyle Zabokrtsky; Fireman Colton Craig; Fireman Michael Knorpp.

Jarnac receives Meritorious Service Medal 

By The Cordova Times staff

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore Cmdr. James Jarnac was presented with the Meritorious Service Medal June 1, during the change of command ceremony dockside in Cordova.

The citation accompanying the medal reads as follows:

“Commander Jarnac is cited for meritorious service in the performance of duty as Commanding Officer, USCGC SYCAMORE (WLB 209) from June 2014 to June 2017.

Demonstrating extraordinary leadership, he directed SYCAMORE in the execution of myriad operations, including a 51-day Operation Arctic Shield deployment in support of U.S. National and Coast Guard Arctic strategies during which SYCAMORE serviced 50 aids to navigation and conducted outreach events that strengthened relations with the Native Villages of Hooper Bay and Point Hope.

His diplomatic yet determined effort to honor the Alaskan Eskimo Whaling Commission’s request to prevent the work of embarked scientists from interfering with the subsistence migration of the Bowhead whale led to significant praise for the Coast Guard.

Cultivating an environment of excellence, he inspired the crew to exceed expectations, earning the coveted Pacific Area Overall Operational Readiness Excellence Award in 2016, as well as the 2016 Coast Guard Foundation Award for mission performance.

Furthermore, he maximized SYCAMORE’S multi-mission capability with a re-energized law enforcement program credited with over 100 at-sea boardings while maintaining a 99.7-percent aids to navigation availability rate.

Commander Jarnac’s dedication and devotion to duty are most heartily commended and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.”


Nayuhta Imaq – Watchman of the Sea 

By The Cordova Times staff

The name Nayuhta Imaq – Watchman of the Sea, was bestowed upon the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore by Native Village of Eyak Elders in 2003.

The 225-foot buoy tender Sycamore was built by Marinette Marine Corp. in Marinette, Wisc., and launched July 28, 2001. It is the second Coast Guard cutter to be named Sycamore.

The Sycamore was commissioned in Cordova on July 2, 2002, replacing the 180-foot U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sweetbrier, which had been stationed in Cordova since 1976.

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Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson
Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson is a staff writer and photographer for The Cordova Times. She has been writing in one form or another for 30-plus years and has had a longstanding relationship with The Cordova Times starting in 1989. She's been an Alaskan since 1976 and first moved to Cordova in 1978. She's lived in various West Texas towns; in Denver, Colorado; in McGrath, Cordova, Galena, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and in Bangalore, India. She has two children and three grandchildren. She can be reached at [email protected] or follow her on Instagram @alaskatoindia.