By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Capt. Scott Pollock, commanding officer of the Coast Guard base on Ediz Hook since June 2007, passed the reins to Richard "Tony" Hahn in a formal change of command ceremony in the station's hangar Friday.
The ceremony -- officiated by Rear Adm. Gary T. Blore, commander of the 13th Coast Guard District -- followed strict military protocol designed to strengthen the continuity of command.
It was attended by more than 100 civic and law enforcement dignitaries, and Pollock's and Hahn's families.
Pollock became deputy commander of Sector Puget Sound in Seattle.
Hahn became the 38th commanding officer of the Port Angeles Coast Guard station.
"To the crew of Group/Air Station Port Angeles, I am honored, at the same time very humbled, to be your commanding officer," said Hahn, whose last assignment was executive officer at Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen in Puerto Rico.
Pollock is one rank higher than Hahn and leaves big boots to fill.
During his tour of duty in Port Angeles, Pollock's units handled 790 incidents that saved 113 lives and more than $35 million in property, and assisted more than 1,000 others, according to the Legion of Merit citation that Pollock received Friday.
"I get the credit, they do the work," Pollock said of his crew.
Blore praised Pollock for his leadership in bringing Port Angeles online as the first airborne use of force unit on the Pacific coast.
The admiral also cited Pollock's success in drug law enforcement, search and rescue operations, execution of the Shiprider law enforcement program with Canadian units, spearheading a new logistics system for small boats and helping to secure the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C.
"Frankly, of all the units I have under my command, I have had more advancements, more school acceptances, more awards, more accolades presented at Group Port Angeles and Air Station Port Angeles units than any others in our district," said Blore, who described Pollock as a "mentor" to his crews.
"And this doesn't happen by chance. It's due to the superb leadership and mentoring that is happening every day at Group and Air Station Port Angeles units," Blore added.
The change of command in Port Angeles happened one week before Coast Guard Group/Air Station Port Angeles becomes Sector Field Office/Air Station Port Angeles as part of reorganization and consolidation into a new Sector Puget Sound.
The new designation, which will take effect Friday, has been in the works for three years.
"In summary, soon, one Coast Guard captain will have authority in all of Puget Sound, the straits and the entrances to the straits and northern Washington," Blore explained.
"I want to assure you that this is a much better way to affect command and control than it has to do with any loss of units or presence in this area," he said.
"In fact, you won't lose any units.
"Stations Quillayute River, Neah Bay, Port Angeles and Bellingham will remain online and be ready to respond to any task. It is simply a better and more effective way to do command and control."
"The upcoming reorganization of the group to sector Seattle will not affect the readiness level, or diminish the great service the Coast Guard provides the Puget Sound mariner," Pollock said.
"In fact, with a single Coast Guard voice, I think it will get better."
The Coast Guard has had a presence in Port Angeles for nearly 140 years.
Pollock and Hahn formalized the change of command by reading their orders and saluting Blore and each other.
"My command will focus on professional, efficient and safe mission execution and support, and growing this phenomenal team through our next transition," Hahn said.
"I ask the crew to honor your profession by becoming the absolute expert in your specialty, and seek every opportunity to serve and help others. I look forward to working with all of you."
To the left of the stage was a Coast Guard helicopter and 60 uniformed Coast Guard personnel. To the right of the stage was a Coast Guard rescue boat and a 16-piece Navy band from Silverdale.
The one-hour ceremony featured a color guard, the playing of the national anthem, an invocation and a benediction. It was staged in front of a giant U.S. flag.
"The formality of the occasion is an acknowledgement of respect for authority, which is vital to a military organization," said Cmdr. Kevin Gavin, executive officer of the Port Angeles base and the master of ceremonies for the change of command.
"The ceremony represents more than just the relief of one commanding officer by another.
"It is the transfer of absolute authority and responsibility for a military unit of the United States and its assigned missions."
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at email@example.com.