Commanding Officer: Commander Ben Russell
Commander Ben Russell, a native of Olympia, Washington, enlisted in the Coast Guard on January 3rd, 2000, and graduated from Training Center Cape May, New Jersey. His first assignment was on the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell, a 378’ High Endurance Cutter homeported in Alameda, CA, where he served as Helmsman, Boarding Team Member and Seaman in charge of the non-rated personnel within the Deck Force.
Commander Russell then attended Marine Science Technician (MST) A-school, and upon graduation as a Third Class Petty Officer was assigned to Marine Safety Office Detroit, where he served as a Port State Control Officer conducting inspections on foreign vessels transiting the Great Lakes. He qualified as a Pollution Investigator and served as a Federal On-Scene Coordinator’s representative during the largest oil spill in the Detroit River’s history. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he established an innovative domestic and foreign deep-draft vessel identification, tracking and communication system which was implemented throughout the CG’s Ninth District and used to maintain the safety and security of the marine transportation system across the Great Lakes. As a result, Commander Russell was selected as MSO Detroit’s Sailor of the Year and to attend Officer Candidate School. Commander Russell earned his commission on November 11, 2003.
His first assignment as a Coast Guard officer was as the Executive Officer of Marine Safety Detachment Belfast, ME where he led port operations along 2,000 miles of Maine’s coastline. As a Lieutenant, he transferred to Fort Monroe, VA, where he served as the Coast Guard’s Liaison to U.S. Northern Command’s Joint Task Force Civil Support Command. While there, Commander Russell earned the Defense Support of Civil Authorities certification and contributed to strategic planning doctrine for the nation’s response following a chemical, biological, cyber and terrorist attack on our country’s soil.
Returning to Michigan in 2007, Commander Russell reported to Sector Field Office Grand Haven as the Executive Officer where he was responsible for the naval and civil engineering readiness of 10 Coast Guard Search and Rescue Stations along Lake Michigan’s Eastern shore. During his tour, Commander Russell was deployed twice to serve as the Area Command Branch Director for Baldwin County, AL, where he led the response efforts of 2,000 Coast Guard and pollution response contractors during the Deep Water Horizon oil spill.
From 2011 to 2016, Commander Russell served as the Chief of Inspections at Marine Safety Unit Portland, OR, and supervised vessel inspections and investigations along the West Coast and throughout 3,000 miles of the Columbia and Snake rivers, and performed deep-draft vessel construction oversight at the nation’s largest dry dock. Commander Russell is reporting to Marine Safety Unit Morgan City after four years serving on the Coast Guard Eighth District staff where he served as the Chief of Inspections and Investigations responsible for mission support of 13 Captain of the Port zones and over 40% of the Coast Guard’s marine safety workload.
Commander Russell is a 1998 graduate of the University of St. Martin in Lacey, WA, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. He is a 2017 graduate from the American Military University where he earned a Master’s Degree with Honors in Public Administration. His personal awards include the Coast Guard Meritorious Service Medal, the Department of Defense Joint Commendation Medal and multiple personal and unit awards. He and his wife, Jennifer Russell, have two daughters and four sons: Jasper, Savannah, Walker, Gracelyn, Wyatt, and Henry.
Executive Officer: Lt. Cmdr. Elizabeth Newton
Lt. Cmdr. Elizabeth Newton is from Woodstock, GA and graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 2005 earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Environmental Science with an emphasis in Biology and Chemistry. Her first assignment was as a Deck Watch Officer (DWO) on the 1944 built, USCGC MACKINAW (WAGB-83), known as the “Queen of the Great Lakes”, in Cheboygan, MI. There she conducted ice breaking operations on the Great Lakes and oversaw the decommissioning of the MACKINAW in 2006. She then transferred from the Coast Guard’s oldest icebreaker to the newest and largest ice breaker, assuming the responsibilities as a DWO on the USCGC HEALY (WAGB-20), in Seattle, WA, from 2006-2008. There she conducted and assisted in the pursuit of scientific research on 6 month deployments to the Arctic Ocean.
Lt. Cmdr. Newton attended the University of Rhode Island from 2008 to 2010 where she earned her Master of Science degree in Chemical Engineering. After graduation she worked in the Office of Hazardous Materials Division at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. There she was responsible for developing, interpreting, and maintaining regulations, standards and industry guidance on the marine transportation of Packaged Hazardous Materials and Bulk Solid Materials. She was also a member of the Chemical Transportation Advisory Committee and a member of the U.S. delegation at the International Maritime Organization in London, England.
Lt. Cmdr. Newton was assigned to Sector New York in 2013 as a Marine Inspector and Port State Control Examiner in the East Coast’s largest commercial port. She also served as the Assistant Chief of Inspections Division where she supervised over 40 marine inspectors and oversaw over 1800 vessel inspections yearly for a commercial fleet of over 900 vessels.
In June 2016, she was assigned as the Supervisor of the Marine Safety Detachment St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands where she led a multi-mission, isolated overseas unit. As the senior Coast Guard officer in the USVI, she was responsible for the execution of port safety, security, maritime domain awareness, marine environmental response, and coordination with federal, territorial, and local agencies.