Congratulations to Lieutenant Commander Eric VanVelzen, US Coast Guard (Ret.) (right), on receiving his commission as an Admiral in the Texas Navy, one of the highest civilian honors bestowed by the State of Texas. Presenting Van’s commission is Adm. Chester Barnes, Commander of the Charles E. Hawkins Squadron in Galveston.
VanVelzen currently serves as Commandant of the Texas A&M at Galveston Maritime Academy.
Raised near Seattle, Washington, Lieutenant Commander VanVelzen entered military service in 1989 by enlisting in the United States Marine Corps. He served seven years on active duty and six years in the Marine Corps Reserve as an Avionics Technician on F/A-18 Hornets. Shortly after graduation from A- School, Lance Corporal VanVelzen deployed to Shaikh Isa Air Base (now Isa Air Base), Bahrain with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 232 in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM in 1990-1991.
Upon return to Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Lance Corporal VanVelzen volunteered to join the Third Marine Division Security Detachment deployment to Kurdish refugee camps in northern Iraq. A change in deployment orders resulted in the detachment returning to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to provide regional security for military equipment and ammunition shipments back to the United States. In 1993, Corporal VanVelzen returned to the Middle East when he deployed to Ahmad al-Jaber Air Base in Kuwait in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. He deployed with VMFA- 235 to Iwakuni, Japan; Darwin, Australia; and Osan, Korea as part of a Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment in 1992 and to Iwakuni, Japan and Kadena, Okinawa with VMFA-232 In 1994. In 2000, his reserve squadron, VMFA-134, deployed from Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth to Cairo, Egypt in support of Exercise BRIGHT STAR 2000.
Lieutenant Commander VanVelzen discovered his love of nautical archaeology as a member of the Combined Caesarea Excavation staff in Israel. After three summers as Divemaster and Site Medic, he was selected to serve as the Diving Safety Officer for the Institute of Nautical Archaeology’s excavation of the Confederate Blockade Runner DENBIGH in Galveston, Texas (right). This led him to enroll in the Maritime Studies Program at Texas A&M University at Galveston where he earned a Bachelor of Arts (Cum Laude) with a concentration in Nautical Archaeology. During his three years at Texas A&M University at Galveston, he actively participated in the Offshore Sailing Team, Scientific Diving Program (including teaching the lab), volunteer crew on the 1877 Iron Barque ELISSA, and Student Body President in 2001-2002.
Upon graduation from Officer Candidate School in New London, Connecticut, he was commissioned an Ensign in February 2003 and assigned to Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER (WMEC-905) in Boston, Massachusetts. While on SPENCER, he deployed to Haiti in support of Operation SECURE TOMORROW and to the Mediterranean and Black Sea in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. After assignment on SPENCER, Lieutenant Junior Grade VanVelzen served three years as a watch stander at the Headquarters Command Center in Washington, D.C.
Lieutenant VanVelzen reported to Port Security Unit 312 in 2007 as the Logistics Officer, supporting the Coast Guard Port Security Unit’s primary mission of overseas anti-terrorism/force protection in the military ports of debarkation. This included a nine-month deployment to Kuwait in 2010. While assigned to the Pacific Area Staff, Lieutenant VanVelzen was actively involved with Coast Guard support of Department of Defense operations in the Western Pacific, including participation in Exercises KEY RESOLVE, FOAL EAGLE, and ULCHI-FREEDOM GUARDIAN in the Republic of Korea, and aboard the USS BLUE RIDGE (LCC-19), the Seventh Fleet command ship.
In June 2014, Lieutenant Commander VanVelzen reported to the Director of Operational Logistics in Norfolk, Virginia to serve as the lead contingency and deployable logistics planner supporting Coast Guard Atlantic Area operations, with a focus on Caribbean (SOUTHCOM), European (EUCOM), and Persian Gulf/Central Command (CENTCOM) areas of responsibility. In response to the record-setting 2017 hurricane season, Lieutenant Commander VanVelzen deployed aboard the USS KEARSARGE (LHD-3) for three weeks as part of a five-person liaison detachment providing Coast Guard subject matter expertise in the Caribbean to the Department of Defense support of humanitarian relief response operations.
Lieutenant Commander VanVelzen retired from active duty in June 2019 while serving with U. S. Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, at Manama, Bahrain, after thirty years of military service, of which twenty-five were on active duty. During his military service, Lieutenant Commander VanVelzen continued to be a proud Aggie and staunch supporter of Texas A&M by remaining active in A&M Clubs in San Francisco, California and Norfolk, Virginia. Additionally, while deployed overseas, he hosted Aggie Musters in Busan, Republic of Korea in 2012 and Manama, Bahrain in 2018.