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Coast Guard Cutter gets first woman commander

AC - DC (music group)Inner HarborWar of 1812

For the first time in its 51-year history, the Coast Guard Cutter Chock is under the command of a woman.

With tears and cheers and a musical assist from AC/DC, the Curtis Bay station transferred responsibility for the 65-foot tugboat to Chief Petty Officer Tracy Randall from Senior Chief Petty Officer Brian Kuhar.

Randall, a 21-year Coast Guard veteran, drew the assignment while stationed in Key West, Fla. It is her first command.

"It's over-the-top exciting," said Randall, a Southern California native. "It's great to be able to expand opportunities for women. But I didn't earn this as a female. I earned this as a Coastie."

Randall is the recipient of three Coast Guard Commendation Medals, one Navy Commendation Medal and two Coast Guard Achievement Medals. She also has been assigned to Kodiak, Alaska; New Orleans, Woods Hole, Mass.; and several stations in California.

She praised her new six-man crew as "masters of their crafts," noting that they won this year's Maryland boat rodeo Captain's Cup.

The Chock was reassigned last June to Curtis Bay from Norfolk, Va. It has handled everything from search-and-rescue missions to security details during events such as the presidential inauguration and last year's Inner Harbor Sailabration commemoration of the War of 1812.

The change-of-command ceremony opened with the hard-rock anthem "Back in Black," an acknowledgment of the Chock's black hull and Kuhar's high-octane command style. The audience of family and officers and enlisted personnel broke into laughter as Boatswain's Mate Jeffrey Ritter Jr. issued the admonishment: "No air guitar."

Kuhar, who received the Coast Guard Commendation Medal, will become the executive petty officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Frank Drew based in Portsmouth, Va.

In his remarks, Kuhar lauded the tug for its ability to take on a wide variety of tasks. He noted that he got to know and love the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries during his three years aboard the Chock, a tour done at the tug's turtle-esque speed.

"The Chock does," he said of the vessel's utility player reputation. "But the Chock does 10 knots — everywhere. And when the Chock got a mission, Chock did."

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

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