BOSTON — A 2006 Churchill County High School graduate celebrated America’s 240th year of independence as part of a hand-picked Navy crew serving on the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, the USS Constitution.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael St. Germain, a boatswain’s mate, serves aboard the 219-year-old Boston-based ship named by President George Washington to honor the Constitution of the United States of America. Famously known as “Old Ironsides,” the Constitution is a wooden-hulled three-masted heavy frigate that originally launched in 1797.
St. Germain said he is honored to have been selected to serve on the ship that is rich in history and successfully held off the British Navy in the War of 1812.
“I enjoy the interaction with the public because it is such a unique experience,” said St. Germain. “This is the only place in the Navy that you are going to be able to do that.”
A key element of the Navy’s mission is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, according to Navy officials, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea. Just as the U.S. Navy’s 274 ships and submarines do today, Constitution actively defended sea lanes against global threats from 1797 to 1855. Constitution’s victories at sea during the War of 1812 inspired a nation and helped mark the emergence of the United States as a world-class maritime power.
Now a featured destination on Boston’s Freedom Trail, Constitution and crew offer community outreach and education about the ship’s history and the importance of maintaining a strong Navy to thousands of visitors each year.
“By serving on the Constitution, I am responsible for telling all the ship’s history to the public, as well as the United States Navy’s history,” said St. Germain. “It really does fulfill a self gratitude within.”
Eighty-five sailors make up the crew aboard Constitution. These sailors routinely interact with the public talking about their jobs, their previous duty stations, Navy rules and regulations and life aboard a Navy vessel.
“The sailors aboard this ship are the best in the fleet,” said Cmdr. Robert S. Gerosa Jr., commanding officer of USS Constitution. “Every time we get to interact with the public I know the story of our great ship, as well as the Navy’s story, is going to be told with enthusiasm and accuracy.”
Constitution is currently in dry dock for its first major restoration in more than 20 years. The restoration is expected to last two and half years, but the ship will remain open to the public.
According to Navy officials, ships must come out of the water from time to time for maintenance and repair, even the newest vessels in the fleet. The integrity of a ship’s hull is critical to its survival and that of its crew. Ships are removed from the water for careful inspection, replacement of aging pieces and refinishing of the bottom below the waterline so they may continue to serve for years to come.
While the ship is undergoing improvements, many sailors use the opportunity to improve upon their own personal and professional goals.
“Serving in the Navy is a family tradition,” added St. Germain. “By following that tradition, it makes serving in the Navy that much more important to me.”