The US Coast Guard Cutter Maple, a 225-foot buoy tender, changed command on Thursday (06-23-16) from Lieutenant Commander Mike Newell to Lieutenant Commander Patrick Armstrong. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

The Coast Guard held a change of command ceremony aboard the Cutter Maple in Sitka yesterday morning (06-23-16). Beneath blue skies, Lieutenant Commander Mike Newell transferred command of the 225-buoy tender to Lieutenant Commander Patrick Armstrong.


From L to R: Captain Laura Dickey, 17th Coast Guard District Chief of Staff, Lieutenant Commander Mike Newell,Lieutenant Commander Patrick Armstrong, and Lieutenant Commander Ray Rivers, who delivered the invocation and benediction. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

The primary mission of the Maple is to service aids to navigation. Her crew performs maintenance on 228 shore and buoy aids throughout Southeast Alaska, which serve as signposts marking US waterways. While on patrol, the Maple also conducts search and rescue, fisheries law enforcement, and pollution response.

Newell assumed command of the Maple on January 30th, 2014, having previously served aboard Cutter Spar out of Kodiak and Cutter Hickory in Homer.


The primary mission of the Maple is to service aids to navigation. Her crew performs maintenance on 228 shore and buoy aids throughout Southeast Alaska. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Captain Laura Dickey, Chief of Staff said the ceremony both formalized the MAPLE’s change of command, while also recognizing a job well done by Newell.

Captain Dickey: Lieutenant Commander Newell certainly used his past experience and knowledge of Alaska well. Maple has serviced buoys in Cook Inlet to ensure the safe and efficient flow of commerce into Alaska’s largest city, sailed to Bristol Bay to ensure aids to navigation systems were in place to support some of Alaska’s largest commercial fishery operations, and ventured to the farthest reaches of the Aleutian chain to perform maintenance on fifteen NOAA weather buoys that provide vital weather information used by forecasters across the state.

Her aids to navigation during Lieutenant Commander Newell’s tenure have been watching properly 99.3 percent of the time. I don’t know what happened the other 0.7 percent, but I trust Lieutenant Commander Armstrong will square that away. You don’t compile that kind of a record in this kind of operating environment without insightful use of operational risk management and a constant focus on safety.

Newell’s next tour will be in Juneau as the 17th Coast Guard District Waterways Management Branch Chief.

Newell thanked his family and the crew, saying they embodied the idea of “one ship, one crew, one mission” “”I could not have done this job without you, ladies and gentleman, getting up early for briefs, weighing anchor, AtoN (aids to navigation) operations, always doing it with a smile, even if we’re doing it a 5AM,” Newell said. “I ask that you guys give the new CO (commanding officer) the same support and can-do attitude that you guys have given me.


Lieutenant Commander Patrick Armstrong assumes command of the USCG Maple Cutter. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

After inspecting the crew, Maple’s command was officially transferred to Armstrong through the presentation of a commissioning pennant, which will be flown day and night from the aftermost masthead during Armstrong’s tour.

Armstrong hails from Worcester, Massachusetts and thanked his family for traveling to Sitka to attend the ceremony. Since 2014, he served as Operations Officer aboard the USCGC Rush and Sherman, whose homeport is in Honolulu, Hawaii.


The USCGC Maple was built in Wisconsin. It was commissioned during a ceremony on October 19, 2001 in Sitka, Maple’s homeport pier. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)