By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Eriks, a Seattle native who last served at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington D.C., became the 40th commanding officer of the base on Ediz Hook during a change of command ceremony attended by Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer and scores of local dignitaries.
“To the men and women of Air Station Sector Field Office Port Angles, I am truly honored and humbled to be your new commanding officer,” Eriks said.
Eriks, 48, replaced Capt. Keith McTigue, who was reassigned to Stuttgart, Germany to serve as Chief of Counter Narcotics and Law Enforcement Division, U.S. Africa Command, after two years in Port Angeles.
Rear Adm. Richard Gromlich, commander of the Seattle-based 13th Coast Guard District, presided over the highly-formal, 70-minute event.
“Air Station Port Angeles Sector Field Office is a unit you want to be stationed at, and it definitely shows,” Eriks said.
“Capt. McTigue has done a tremendous job, and I thank him for his leadership and his commitment to excellence during these last two years.”
The change of command became official after McTigue and Eriks read their orders to more than 150 Coast Guardsmen and assembled guests in the unit's hangar.
“Port Angeles is truly, truly a special place for us to be, and we consider it an honor to be your neighbors,” said Gromlich, who heads a district that covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
The 13th Coast Guard District is responsible for more than 4,400 miles of coastline, 600 miles of inland waterways and a 125-mile maritime boarder with Canada.
Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles is a dual-mission unit with both operational and support activities in an area that includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Pacific coast and Puget Sound.
Inslee, who was making his first public appearance in Port Angeles since becoming governor, did not speak during the ceremony.
He and Kilmer — a Democrat from Gig Harbor who represents the 6th Congressional District, which inlcudes the North Olympic Peninsula — had a front-row seat near a stage that was framed by a giant U.S. flag and flanked by a Coast Guard helicopter and rescue boat.
“If I was asked to described the view from the stage I'm on, I would say wow,” said Eriks, while looking east over a sun-splashed Strait of Juan de Fuca and the entrance to Port Angeles Harbor.
“It's great to be back in the Pacific Northwest. My family and I are excited to be here.”
In his last assignment at Coast Guard Headquarters, Eriks was division chief of the Budget Formulation and External Coordination Divisions, Office of Budget and Programs.
Prior to that, he served the engineering officer at Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., where he managed the maintenance of four Coast Guard helicopters and five fixed-wing aircraft from 2009 to 2011.
Eriks enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1984 and became an officer 1994. His prior assignments include Clearwater, Fla., and Astoria, Ore.
As part of the ceremony, McTigue and Eriks greeted individual members of the Port Angeles unit in a formal inspection.
Said Rear Adm. Gromlich: “Some of the Coast Guard's best pilots and air crew come out of this unit due to the highly-demanding, dangerous environment you operate in on a daily basis.”
McTigue received a Meritorious Service Medal during the ceremony. He told historic Coast Guard stories that represent values of people, pride and professionalism.
“Two years ago I talked about having perfection as my goal,” McTigue said.
“Even though we didn't reach perfection, we most certainly reached excellence.”
McTigue, a Shelton native whose past aviation assignments included Houston, North Bend, Ore., and Kodiak, Alaska, said the Port Angeles unit is “comprised of people who want to be here in Western Washington.”
“The vast majority of us have had Port Angeles in the top one or two on our assignment preference list,” McTigue said.
Before relinquishing his command, McTigue thanked the members of his unit, his wife, Sally, and the greater Port Angeles community for its support.
“What other community has a Walmart that flies the Coast Guard flag?” McTigue quipped.
“Although some of us stay longer than others, and many of us eventually come back, thank you for supporting all of us.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.