Second woman to command the USCGC Healy has ties to Wisconsin

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SEATTLE (WMTV) -- A U.S. Coast Guard captain with ties to Wisconsin is the second woman to command the country's largest Coast Guard cutter and most technologically advanced polar icebreaker.

Captain Mary Ellen J. Durley took command the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy in Seattle on June 19. Durley's parents, Robert and Mary Durley, live in Potosi, Wis.

"I'm returning to the Pacific Northwest where I previously served as Executive Officer in U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, so breaking ice is a familiar mission," Durley said at the change-of-command ceremony. "I'm looking forward to supporting the U.S. strategic missions in the Arctic."

The Healy is 420 feet long and is designed to conduct a wide range of research activities, according to a press release. It includes more than 4,200 square feet of laboratory space, electronic sensor systems and oceanographic winches. It's designed to break 4.5 feet of ice continuously at three knots and can operate in temperatures as low as negative 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Durley's responsibilities as the commanding officer include the safety and oversight of the Coast Guard crew, scientists and visitors in executing missions, such as Arctic research, domestic icebreaking, search and rescue, marine environment protection, homeland security and law enforcement.

Prior to taking command of Healy, Durley was the Chief of the Office of Navigation Systems at the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Over her 27-year Coast Guard career, Durley also commanded Thunder Bay in Maine, and Alder in Minnesota. Durley will serve on Healy for the next two years.