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It was originally placed under the command of Captain Eduardo Mendez who served as its commanding officer for many years. In 2366 Lieutenant Commander Michael Owens was transferred to Columbia to replace the outgoing first officer after he had been requested by Mendez.
Amaya Donners served on the Columbia for five years as chief engineer and competed with Owens for the position of first officer. Donners transferred off Columbia shortly after Owens' arrival in order to take a position as the first officer of the USS Bellerophon.
DeMara Deen was assigned to Columbia shortly after Michael Owens and served as a science specialist. In 2369 she became an operations manager. Deen made a distinguishing mark during her tour on Columbia which earned her the Daystrom Award of Science.
In 2370 while leading an away mission, Michael Owens acted swiftly when realizing that Columbia had been led into malicious trap, saving Columbia and a convoy of friendly vessels in the process. However Captain Eduardo Mendez was killed in an subsequent attack.
Even though reluctant to replace a man he had admired Owens became the ship's acting captain after the loss of Mendez. In 2371 Owens was forced to sacrifice Columbia in order to save a populated world from destruction. The ship was destroyed but the crew was evacuated in time. Owens' actions were rewarded with the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor.
Captain Mendez instituted an annual event to celebrate the vessel's anniversary in service. This party would usually involve the entire crew and take place in crew lounges throughout Columbia. Afterwards the captain would dine privately with his senior officers in a casual manner.
Columbia's captain believed in having two officers to head security and tactical respectively. This way he could ensure that during away missions his security chief could provide safety to his officers while the most experienced tactical officer remained on the bridge.
Michael Owens would later implement both traditions when he became captain of the USS Eagle.