Saturday, December 3, 2022

Avenue of Heroes: Commander Cherie B. Collins

Written by: Matt Collins (son) and Jim Collins (husband)

She was a Mustang, a Shellback and a master training specialist. She wanted to go to the Naval Academy, but in the early 1970s that was not an option for women. So, Cherie Bowlin Collins enlisted in the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES, military unit as a seaman recruit, to do her four years and earn the GI Bill to go to college. Thirty years later, she retired as a commander.

During her enlisted active duty, Collins served as a budget clerk, plane captain, and qualified hurricane evacuation storekeeper, flying in the back seat of the T-2 aircraft, at a primary pilot training squadron in Meridian, Mississippi. She also attended junior college in the evenings and discovered a love for computers. She stayed in the Naval Reserves and served in positions in administration, management and logistics support.

After marrying her husband Jim, a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps, they moved to Hawaii, where she completed a bachelor’s degree in computer science. She accepted a direct commission into the Office of Naval Intelligence following 11 years of enlisted service. The couple’s military service spanned tours in Hawaii, Texas, Virginia, Germany and San Diego. Each move brought her a new Naval Intelligence Reserve unit assignment as well as a parallel civilian career as an intelligence analyst, systems analyst, database manager, program manager or military intelligence computer systems instructor.

Some of the highlights of her military career included becoming a Shellback while crossing the equator onboard the USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19); designation as an Honorary Tailhooker on the USS Eisenhower (CVN-69); and earning her master training specialist certification to instruct the use of a specially configured intelligence workstation while deployed to Alaska with the Army Arctic Warriors. Her final military assignment was as executive officer for a
Joint Intelligence Pacific Reserve unit in San Diego, where she took care of her sailors, the most important job in the military.

Collins and her husband moved permanently to Coronado, California, in 2013 and continue to stay active in the military and civilian communities. Their son Matt is an environmental lawyer for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and a Naval Reserve Seabee. Hoorah!

The Hometown Banner Program is a military service recognition program sponsored by the City of Coronado. Introduced in 2014, the program has honored 218 hometown heroes. On Nov. 5, 2022, another 12 will be honored. The City funds all the costs for the program. City staff and volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2422, the Coronado Historical Association and the Third and Fourth Streets Neighborhood Association oversee its operation. In 2011 the inspiration for the program came spontaneously with the movement of two Navy SEALs to their final resting place. News spread quickly in Coronado. The local Rotary Club passed out American flags. People lined Fourth Street to honor the fallen service members. As the procession approached the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, a lone Navy SEAL stood at attention, saluting as he waited for the passage of his comrades. At that moment, it was clear that Third and Fourth streets were already an Avenue of Heroes. From that spontaneous beginning, the program was launched in May 2015 with 18 banners. Ceremonies are held twice yearly and men and women with ties to the community have been recognized from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The Hometown Banner program is a reminder that Coronado has a rich history and legacy of service to country.


Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]