Just across the bay is the beautiful San Diego skyline and if you continue to move your gaze south past the bridge you can also see the ship bearing the city’s namesake, USS San Diego (LPD 22), commanded by Coronado resident Capt. Pete Collins. USS San Diego is an amphibious transport dock ship that is also home to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), a Marine Air-Ground Task Force. USS San Diego recently returned from a 7 month deployment where they sailed over 40,000 nautical miles, navigating through the Suez Canal, the Balabac Strait, Surigao Strait, Strait of Malacca, Singapore Strait, Bab-al-Mendab Strait and Strait of Tiran.
“We had units from the ARG/MEU team operating in several countries and two different fleets simultaneously,” said Collins. “The spread of personnel, geographic influence and contributions to the fight in theater was well received and important to several peripheral missions making this a successful deployment for the Blue-Green team.”
As the Commanding Officer, Collins has a large scope of responsibility, leading more than 400 Navy Sailors responsible for all ship operations, and embarking almost 700 Marines during deployment. A Naval Aviator by trade, Collins is now completing his Major Command At Sea tour for the Navy, which means after spending a career as an MH-60R helicopter pilot and commanding a squadron, he was then hand selected to command a large deck amphibious ship. When I asked him his favorite part of being the Commanding Officer he said it is “how you can inspire people to succeed no matter how challenging things can be.” He went on to say, “It is important to me to inspire the next generation to want to do the job and enjoy what they are doing.”
Collins is proud to serve aboard San Diego’s namesake ship and said serving on the namesake is also a great source of pride for the Sailors. The ship enjoys a great relationship with the Padres and on their way home the Sailors and Marines combined to make the Padres symbol on the flight deck.
In April 2004, then Secretary of the Navy Gordon England named LPD-22 USS San Diego saying, “San Diego is home to a large number of the Pacific Fleet’s ships. For decades our Nation’s Sailors and Marines have begun their service to America at boot camps in San Diego. Thousands of military families and veterans have fallen in love with the area and are fortunate enough to live and work in San Diego. USS San Diego will project American power to the far corners of the earth and support the cause of freedom well into the 21st century.” England went on to say “San Diego is a great Navy town and one of the world’s finest harbors. For more than a century, the city has served as a vital base of operations for the U.S. Navy and the citizens of ‘America’s Finest City’ have welcomed our Sailors and Marines as neighbors.”
Collins has spent more than half of his career stationed in Coronado and feels very fortunate to be part of this community. The proud father of three young girls, the Collins family enjoys spending time at Gator Beach, and of course enjoying the concerts in the park. What they love most is the sense of community in Coronado, building friendships as they meet people through their girls’ schools and sports teams. Collins’ wife Kristine actively volunteers with the Coronado schools and other charities when she’s not busy taking care of their three girls.
The youngest of nine children, Collins felt that one of the things that prepared him for his successful career was “watching and learning from his older siblings’ successes and mistakes, and seeing that hard work really pays off.” While his father did a short tour in the Navy in WWII as a gunner’s mate on a destroyer, Collins didn’t have much exposure to the military growing up. He was, however, fascinated by flight his entire life. His childhood home in Portland, Oregon was not too far from the airport and he and his brother would often go and watch the planes take off and land, instilling the desire to fly at an early age. There was also an Air National Guard F-4s flying overhead that inspired him to join the military aviation team. He earned his commission through Naval ROTC at the University of Washington and later in his career earned a Masters of Arts in Organizational Management from the George Washington University.