PORT ANGELES — A twist was put on the time-honored tradition of the change-of-command ceremony at the Coast Guard’s Air Station Port Angeles.
The handoff was in the skies.
From the cockpit of an H-65 helicopter, Cmdr. Joan Snaith transferred command to Cmdr. Brent Schmadeke and became a captain on Thursday.
During the ceremony, the two aircraft blazed across the skies to later come together in formation with now-Cpt. Snaith in the lead.
Once orders and approvals were given by Rear Admiral Melvin Bouboulis, Cmdr. Schmadeke maneuvered into the lead, assuming his command duties and responsibilities of the flight and the unit.
“I have to say when this maneuver was proposed to me for approval, I thought this will be really cool and really interesting. Then I thought, if this goes wrong — we all might be doing our last official function,” Rear Admiral Bouboulis said.
At one point during the change of command, as the H-65s flew over, hundreds of birds flew out of the brush.
Schmadeke has served as deputy of Aviation Forces at the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he was responsible for providing aviation resources, doctrine, oversight and training programs.
He guided the annual allocation and aviation budget execution in support of 29 air stations, six air facilities and 5,700 personnel to operate 211 aircraft flying 135,000 flight hours in support of Coast Guard missions.
This is his third tour at Air Station Port Angeles. From 2016 to 2019, he was the operations officer and the unit’s chief pilot, overseeing all aviation response for the northwest Pacific Ocean, Puget Sound, and a 125-mile international land/sea border.
Schmadeke is originally from Fredricksburg, Iowa, and attended Wartburg College, where he graduated with a degree in education in 1997.
He met his wife, Kate, at Wartburg and the two have two children, Alexandria and Ezekiel.
“To the men and women of Air Station Port Angeles, the base looks amazing and I look forward to working with you all,” Schmadeke said.
Snaith was the 43rd commanding officer for Air Station Port Angeles.
She began her Coast Guard career on Confidence, a cutter stationed in Port Canaveral, Fla., serving as a deck watch officer and law enforcement.
Snaith transferred to the Pacific Northwest from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans, where she served as the operations officer, coordinating aviation search and rescue for offshore regions and navigable waterways of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle.
Snaith is originally from Amherst, N.H., and holds a bachelor’s degree in marine and environmental science from the Coast Guard Academy, a master’s in aeronautical science from Emery-Riddle University, and a master’s in public policy from Princeton University.
Throughout both of their careers, both Snaith and Schmadeke have flown H-65s, making them the choice aeronautical vehicle for the day’s events.
Snaith flew H-65s while stationed in Traverse City, Mich., and Schmadeke flew them when he was first stationed in Port Angeles.
Upon landing, Snaith and Schmedke were greeted in the hangar of the Air Station Port Angeles.
Snaith and her unit were presented with awards for meritorious service, along with Snaith being promoted to the rank of captain.
Snaith touted her unit’s work with more than 330 rescues that occurred in her two-year period as commander.
“To sum up what it took to rescue those 334 live, it came down to teamwork,” Snaith said.
“Every one of you in the audience today helped with those rescues and helped bring those folks home, and for that, I couldn’t be more proud of every one of you and the relationships we have built,” she continued.
“It has been the privilege and honor of my life to serve with you here in Port Angeles. We have all served each other, and together we have served the nation,” Snaith said.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].