Command transferred at Coast Guard unit

MORGAN CITY, La. — Dressed in their ceremonial Coast Guard uniforms, Marine Safety Unit commanding officer Capt. Jonathan Burton formally relinquished his post Thursday morning transferring it to Capt. David McClellan.

A crowd of several hundred, which included Coast Guard personnel, governmental officials and citizens, witnessed the change of command and listened to The Navy Band New Orleans perform at the ceremony.

The executive officer of Marine Safety in Morgan City, Capt. Blake Welborn, presided over the change of command as master of ceremonies.

Rear Adm. Kevin Cook, commander of the Eighth Coast Guard District headquartered in New Orleans, performed the symbolic change of command after Burton and McClellan both read their Coast Guard reassignment orders.

Cook is responsible for Coast Guard operations spanning 26 states.

After officially taking over command, McClellan said one of his career goals had been to become commanding officer of a marine safety office.

McClellan, who came to Morgan City after serving as chief of the Prevention Department at Coast Guard Sector Miami since June 2010, told the audience that he wants “to ensure the Coast Guard actions minimize the negative impacts to your businesses while progressing our mission of marine safety, security and environmental stewardship.”

McClellan said, “I come from Oregon where they regularly chase away the very industry that you embrace.”

Burton said this change of command was much different than when he took over as commanding officer in Morgan City three years ago. “We were in the middle of one of the worst crises in the Gulf’s history,” Burton said. Burton immediately went to work on BP oil spill response efforts right after the change of command ceremony, he said.

Cook said the Coast Guard is committed to conducting its missions despite budget constraints. “Although our fiscal year 2014 budget looking ahead does not provide the same level of escalating funds that we’ve become accustomed to over the past decade, it does allow us to continue to re-capitalize our aging cutter fleet and maintain frontline operations,” Cook said.

Cook outlined three themes — safety, proficiency and community, that he presented at his own change of command ceremony three weeks ago, and that also reflects his expectations for the Marine Safety Unit in Morgan City.

Safety also encompasses maritime security, Cook said. “I am truly impressed by MSU Morgan City’s thorough, progressive balance of safety and security with industry needs,” Cook said.

The Marine Safety units in Morgan City and Houma are responsible for more than 2,200 commercial vessels, more than 6,000 vessel inspections and 400 mobile offshore drilling units in any given year, Cook said.

Burton’s new position will be as director of Inspections and Compliance at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington D.C. “All those appeals that Dave (McClellan) will send up the chain will eventually end up on my desk,” Burton said.

Cook quoted Winston Churchill saying, “To every man, there comes a point in his lifetime that a special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered a chance to do a very special thing unique to him and fitted to his talents.”

“Here we are at a ceremony for two officers who have received that tap on the shoulder,” Cook said.

Cook awarded Burton the Meritorious Service Medal Gold Star for his service during his time as commanding officer.

Burton was leaving today to prepare for his new position in Washington, D.C., which he will begin June 24.

McClellan thanked Burton and Burton’s wife, Ann, for the hospitality they showed his family helping them finding a place to live, move in and shared a meal together. “Jon, I kind of wish you were staying here, although I guess I couldn’t have this job if you were,” McClellan said.

St. Mary Now & Franklin Banner-Tribune

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Morgan City Daily Review
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