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Homeland Security Secretary Takes Coast Guard's Helm

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2003 – The Coast Guard welcomed Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge aboard today as its new chief civilian during a symbolic transfer of leadership here.

The maritime service has been part of the Department of Transportation. On March 1, it and 21 other federal agencies officially merge into Ridge's Department of Homeland Security.

At the transfer ceremony today in the District of Columbia Armory, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta praised Ridge's "demonstrated great leadership." He then asked Ridge to take good care of the Coast Guard, declaring, "They'll take care of you -- and all of us."

Ridge told hundreds of Coast Guardsmen that he welcomed the "extraordinary opportunity to serve with you as the Secretary of the Coast Guard, and I look forward to our years of service together."

The Coast Guard, established in 1790, has met many challenges while it has maintained its strength of character and purpose especially since Sept. 11, 2001, Ridge said.

"The Coast Guard has not only flourished, it has risen to meet the very real challenge of protecting our nation's coasts, ports and waterways from the threat of terrorism," he declared. It's also noteworthy, he remarked, that the Coast Guard all the while has continued to perform its traditional search and rescue and drug interdiction missions.

After the ceremony, Cadet Jonathan Tillman, 20, a sophomore at the Coast Guard Academy at New London, Conn., met Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania.

"Being one of his former constituents in Pennsylvania, I was dying to meet him," said Tillman, who hails from Montoursville. Homeland security is the "big thing" these days, he said, and the Coast Guard has a big role.

"It's definitely the best time to be an officer in the Coast Guard with the missions being presented and what's happening in the world today. I'm right where I want to be," he concluded.

The Coast Guard has been part of the Department of Transportation since 1967. Before that, it came under the Department of the Treasury.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageHomeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge shakes hands with Coast Guard Academy Cadet Jonathan Tillman Feb. 25, 2003, at the District of Columbia Armory. Ridge received symbolic leadership of the Coast Guard from Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta during a ceremony at the Armory. The Coast Guard passes to Ridge's department on March 1. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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