Bush Welcomes Coast Guard Commandant, Cites Service's Contributions
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 25, 2006 President Bush welcomed a new commandant to the Coast Guard here today, and officially recognized the service as a whole for its contributions during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Incoming Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad W. Allen told the audience at his change of command ceremony May 25 that his service's "challenge is to attack each day, each task, with a purpose grounded in who we are, what we have been, and what we must become." The ceremony took place at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"The Coast Guard is vital to our nation's security, and the American people are grateful to stand behind your shield of freedom," Bush said at the change of command ceremony at Fort McNair. "The Coast Guard is also the world's premier lifesaving service, and the whole world saw your skill and bravery during the hurricanes last year."
Today's ceremony marked the change of command of the Coast Guard from Adm. Thomas H. Collins to Adm. Thad W. Allen. Collins, who led the Coast Guard through its transformation to support the war on terror, is retiring after 38 years of service.
"Admiral Collins has led the men and women of this service with honor and respect and devotion to duty," Bush said.
Allen, who most recently was chief of staff for the Coast Guard, is perhaps best known for his service as the principal federal official overseeing Hurricane Katrina response and recovery efforts. Bush said that in that position, it didn't take long for Allen's integrity and leadership ability to become evident.
"I knew I could count on Admiral Allen to give me candid judgment," Bush said. "I relied on his steady nerves and his presence of mind in trying conditions. I was impressed by his compassion and his determination to help those who had lost so much."
In honor of the Coast Guard's service during Katrina, Bush presented the Coast Guard with the Presidential Unit Citation.
"The Coast Guard performed with courage and distinction. And your response to Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the finest hours in the Coast Guard's 216-year history," he said.
One of Allen's most important tasks as he assumes the duties of commandant will be to ensure the federal government is ready for this year's hurricane season, Bush said. The government is determined to learn the lessons of Katrina, and is doing everything possible to be ready for more storms, he said.
The Department of Homeland Security has reviewed emergency plans for all 50 states and America's 75 largest cities, he said. The department is working closely with communities to identify any weaknesses in their plans and to find ways to improve them, he added.
In his farewell speech, Collins said he has seen the Coast Guard transform and evolve over the years. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Coast Guard has had to shoulder new responsibilities and transform the way it operates, while still maintaining its traditional missions, he said.
"In the face of this and other challenges, the Coast Guard has done extraordinary things - things above and beyond day-to-day operations -- to ensure greater security and safety for our nation now and into the future," he said.
In everything the Coast Guard does, whether in support of the war on terror or humanitarian relief operations at home, the force strives for mission excellence, Allen said after accepting his orders as the 23rd commandant. He pledged to provide the members of the Coast Guard with the best equipment available, and said that his service will strengthen its partnerships with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies.
"Our challenge is to attack each day, each task, with a purpose grounded in who we are, what we have been, and what we must become," Allen said.