Shortly after enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard in 1998, Newburyport native Jeffrey Ferlauto joined the crew of the 270-foot cutter Bear doing the kind of jobs most people would balk at — but a lot has changed since.
"I was literally the lowest guy on the ship. Twenty-two years later I've come full circle, and now I am commanding officer of the ship," Ferlauto said during a phone interview recently.
Following his commission as an officer, Ferlauto served as a deck watch officer aboard the Coast Guard cutter Chase in San Diego, California. In 2003, he was assigned as the operations officer of the Coast Guard cutter Juniper in Newport, Rhode Island. Two years later he reported to the District 17 Office of Aids to Navigation in Juneau, Alaska. In 2007, he was assigned as the operations officer aboard the Coast Guard cutter Campbell in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 2009, he attended Northeastern University where he earned his MBA and master's degree in accounting.
Once completing graduate school, he was assigned to the office of Internal Controls at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He returned to the cutter fleet in 2014 as the executive officer aboard cutter Vigilant in Cape Canaveral, Florida. In 2016, he reported to CG Base Alameda as the comptroller/base operations department head. Ferlauto's last assignment before being named commander was aboard the cutter Stratton as executive officer in May 2018, according to his Coast Guard biography.
Ferlauto and his wife, Alison, have two children, Brooke and Charlie. He is the brother of Newburyport police Officer Charles Ferlauto.
With a home port of Portsmouth, Virginia, the Bear was commissioned in 1983. Since then it has completed over 65 deployments, which include major drug seizures and search and rescue operations, including combing more than 1,900 square nautical miles of ocean in response to the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster.
Ferlauto said he was named commander of the medium endurance cutter in September 2020, and has been kept extremely busy since. The Bear recently returned from a long stint in the eastern Pacific off the coasts of Central and South America. While on patrol, the cutter participated in five drug busts, seized more than $350 million in cocaine and arrested 14 drug smugglers.
"We were very busy down there," he said.
Ferlauto and the Bear will be back on the high seas next month, patrolling the North Atlantic to monitor and enforce fishing regulations, as well as participate in search and rescue operations as needed.
Asked how his crew would respond to a very different patrol, Ferlauto acknowledged it was a "big pivot" from enforcing this country's drug laws, but said he had the best crew in the fleet and they would rise to the challenge.
"I have no doubt we will be successful," Ferlauto said.
He added that the patrol should be more enjoyable for himself and his crew for the simple fact that 99% of personnel are now vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus and will have the chance for shore leave during their time in the North Atlantic.
"We should be able to stretch our legs away from the boat," he said.
Asked about his favorite part of the job, Ferlauto said it was working with his crew and making life-long connections.
"It's been phenomenal, I'll tell you. It's the best job in the world," he said.
Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.