Lt. Commander Michael Newell formally took charge of the Sitka-based Coast Guard cutter Maple today (Thu 1-30-2014), in an Assumption-of-Command ceremony held on the ship.
The Maple is Newell’s first command. He previously served as the executive officer – or second in command — of the Coast Guard Cutter Hickory, which is based in Homer.
Speaking with KCAW before the ceremony, Newell said he’d always wished he’d spent more time in Sitka, and he fought for the assignment on the Maple. He said he’s thrilled to be back in Alaska after a brief assignment in California.
“I want to try to instill in my shipmates that we need to value the experience that we have up here in Alaska,” Newell said. “As a Coast Guardsman you can be stationed anywhere in the world, and not many people get to experience in Alaska.”
“It’s important to me to try to instill in the crew that this may be their only two or three, maybe four years in Alaska, and try to hold onto the memories that they make here.”
Newell took over from the Maple’s executive officer, Lt. Raymond Reichl, who had been serving as temporary commander since October 1.
The Maple’s previous chief, Lt. Commander Fred Seaton, was relieved of command this fall, after the Coast Guard received reports of a “poor command climate” on the Maple, and conducted an investigation. Seaton has been temporarily assigned to Air Station Sitka.
Alaska district commander Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo acknowledged that the ceremony was a new start for the Maple.
“The ship’s been through a lot in the last several months,” Ostebo said. He added that the future of the ship “looks bright.”
Ostebo also used the ceremony to deliver a welcome piece of news to the Maple’s executive officer, Lt. Reichl. After serving as temporary commander of the Maple for the past four months, Reichl has been assigned his first permanent command – as captain of the Coast Guard Cutter Henry Blake, based in Everett, Washington. Reichl will leave the Maple this summer.