The Continuity of Command

Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo and Rear Adm. Dan Abel shake hands at the conclusion of the Coast Guard 17th District change of command ceremony at the Station Juneau pier in Juneau, Alaska June 12, 2014. The change of command ceremony is a formal representation of the continuity of command. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo and Rear Adm. Dan Abel shake hands at the conclusion of the Coast Guard 17th District change of command ceremony at the Station Juneau pier in Juneau, Alaska June 12, 2014. The change of command ceremony is a formal representation of the continuity of command. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo pauses for applause during his speech at the Coast Guard 17th District change of command ceremony at the Station Juneau pier in Juneau, Alaska June 12, 2014. Ostebo was relieved by Rear Adm. Dan Abel, who previously commanded the Coast Guard 1st District. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo pauses for applause during his speech at the Coast Guard 17th District change of command ceremony at the Station Juneau pier in Juneau, Alaska June 12, 2014. Ostebo was relieved by Rear Adm. Dan Abel, who previously commanded the Coast Guard 1st District. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.

There’s a lot of patriotic music. Flapping flags. A marching color guard. An honor platoon in the corner. More shiny pairs of shoes and sharp uniforms than you could count. A Coast Guard change of command, like many military ceremonies, is full of pomp and circumstance. There is an uncommon precision to the movements and speaking that is worth seeing at least once. But why exactly are these ceremonies held, and what do they mean beneath the formal exterior?Such is the case for the Coast Guard 17th District, which spans the entire 44,000-mile coastline of Alaska and the surrounding 3.8 million square miles of water. From the Arctic Ocean to the glaciers and mountains of Southeast Alaska. After three years serving the people of Alaska and leading the Coast Guardsmen who served there, Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo was relieved of his command by a fitting replacement: Rear Adm. Dan Able.

“It’s of singular purpose: the relief of duty and the assumption of duty,” said Ostebo, remarking on the June 12 ceremony. “Like all military changes of command, it’s made total and complete with a simple salute.”

“You’ve done a phenomenal job, the path that you’ve flown the past three years,” Abel said to Ostebo during his remarks. “Your passion for the state, its rich traditions, its people and the larger national interests that are up here are only matched by this land’s vast geography.”

The Coast Guard personnel in attendance listened closely to the words of their new commander, who they will be reporting to as they continue to serve the people of Alaska.

Rear Adm. Dan Abel, commander, Coast Guard 17th District, talks to reporters immediately after the district change of command ceremony at the Station Juneau pier in Juneau, Alaska June 12, 2014. Abel assumed command of the 17th District, which encompasses the entire state of Alaska and surrounding waters. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Rear Adm. Dan Abel, commander, Coast Guard 17th District, talks to reporters immediately after the district change of command ceremony at the Station Juneau pier in Juneau, Alaska June 12, 2014. Abel assumed command of the 17th District, which encompasses the entire state of Alaska and surrounding waters. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.

The ceremony ended with all the formality it began as Semper Paratus, the Coast Guard marching song, began playing over the speakers. The 17th District crew headed home to ready themselves for one last day of work routine before the weekend. By appearance, not much had changed. But they have a new boss now, and they know who that man is and what he expects of them.

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