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WTGB 102/CGB 12001

Change of Command

On July 18, 1997, I had the privilege of attending the Change of Command Ceremony aboard the USCGC Bristol Bay as she lay at anchor under beautifully sunny skies in the Detroit River. The ceremony was conducted in naval tradition, with a simple elegance. The ship's crew was mustered, other officers from Group Detroit came aboard, and a collection of family and friends of the Bristol Bay gathered to witness the Change of Command.

The arrival of the Official Party, an invocation, and playing of the Nation Anthem began the formal proceedings. Remarks by Group Detroit Commander Captain James M. Collins concluded with the awarding of a medal to Lieutenant Commander Thomas M.Heitstuman in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments while in command of the Bristol Bay. Next, both Tom and arriving Commanding Officer Joseph C. McGuiness inspected the ship's company. Each then had an opportunity to offer some remarks, concluding with the formal reading of their orders. The Relief of Command was accomplished with a snappy salute. The ship's commissioning pennant was awarded to the departing commander officer, and a Benediction was offered. While guest and crew stood, the Official Party departed and the ceremony was concluded.

A delicous looking lunch was served on the fantail, but I had to hurry back to work. A quick trip back to base in a 41-footer brought me ashore so fast that I suddenly wished I had stayed aboard for the meal!

Excerpts from the official program follow:


The Change of Command is a time-honored tradition which formally restates to the ship's company the continuity and authority of command. It is a formal ritual conducted before the assembled company of the command. It is a transfer of total responsibility, authority and accountability from one individual to another.


Departing LCDR Heitstuman (left) and arriving LCDR McGuiness salute, as Captain James M. Collins, COMMANDER U.S. Coast Guard Group Detroit, looks on.


LCDR Heitstuman hails from La Grande, Oregon, and is a 1983 graduate of the Coast Guard Officer Candidate School in Yorktown, Virginia. LCDR Heitstuman's first assignment was the USCGC BASSWOOD (WLB 388), a 180-foot seagoing bouy tender homeported in Guam, where he served as Operations Officer. In 1986 LCDR Heitstuman was transferred to the USCGC KATAMI BAY (WTGB 101) as Executive Officer. KATAMI BAY is a 140-foot icebreaking tug homeported in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Upon completion of that tour, LCDR Heitstuman was ordered to the Aids to Navigation and Waterways Management Branch of the Thirteenth Coast Guard District in Seattle, Washington. LCDR Heitstuman served as commanding officer of USCGC REDWOOD (WLM 685), a 157-foot coastal buoy tender homeported in New London, Connecticut from 1990 to 1992. From 1992 to 1994 LCDR Heitstuman attended Oregon State University, where he earned a Masters of Science Degree in Oceanography. LCDR Heistuman took command of the BRISTOL BAY (WTGB 102) on July 21, 1994. He has been awarded both the Coast Guard Commendation and Achievement Medals. LCDR Heitstuman is married to the former Debra Reust of Corvallis, Oregon. They have two sons, Matthew and David, and a dog named MacKenzie.


LCDR McGuiness hails from Dighton, Massachusets and is a 1985 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. LCDR McGuiness's first assignment, as Navigator and Operations Officer, was aboard USCGC WOODRUSH (WLB 407), a 180-foot seagoing bouy tender homeported in Sitka, Alaska. His second tour was as the Executive Officer aboard USCGC THUNDER BAY (WTGB 108), a 140-foot icebreaking tug homeported in Rockland, Maine. Upon completion of that tour, LCDR McGuiness was ordered to the First District Aids to Navigation and Waterways Management Branch. LCDR McGuiness served as commanding officer of USCGC CUSHING (WPB 1321) a 110-foot coastal patrol boat located in Mobile, Alabama. His most recent assignment was Chief of Vessel Traffic Service Prince William Sound (Alaska). LCDR McGuiness and his wife Peri have two children, Brian and Jay.


New Bristol Bay Commanding Officer LCDR McGuiness (left) relaxes with LCDR Heitstuman, who is heading for a new assignment in Washington, D.C.

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Portions Copyright © 1997 by James W. Hebert. All rights reserved.
Page Last modified: June 20, 1998;

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