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New commander takes over cutter Alex Haley

Jun. 10, 2013 - 02:55PM   |  
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KODIAK, Alaska — A new commander is in charge of the Coast Guard cutter Alex Haley.

Cmdr. Stephen White took over during a change-of-command ceremony Friday, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

White previously served as the chief of international planning at the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area Commend in Portsmouth, Va.

He replaces Cmdr. Kevin Riddle, who is headed to the Joint Advanced Warfighting School at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., for additional training. He plans to study multinational planning and warfighting.

Riddle had been in charge of the Kodiak-based cutter since 2011 and was instrumental in the cutter’s operations in the Arctic.

“I was proud to sail with you and would not hesitate to sail with you again,” Riddle told his crew during the ceremony.

He said he was looking forward to spending time with his wife, Stephanie, and their son, Grayson, 6, since he won’t be at sea.

This was the end of his third tour in Kodiak, previously serving as first lieutenant on the cutter Storis and then as commanding officer of the North Pacific Regional Fisheries Council Training Center.

“I spent one-third of my career in Kodiak,” he said. “It’s surreal to think my career may not bring me back here. There will always be a part of me that calls Kodiak home.”

Coast Guard Pacific Area Vice Adm. Paul Zukunft presided at the change of command ceremony, where he talked about the Alex Haley’s mission. The cutter was one of the several Coast Guard ships deployed last year in Operational Arctic Shield.

“We call her (the Alex Haley) the bull of the Bering, but truth be told, she’s the bull of the Arctic,” he said as he talked about the cutter.

Zukunft noted Riddle’s successes with the Alex Haley, including patrols in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea, 38 boardings to check compliance by fishermen and 11 search-and-rescue cases that saved 26 lives.

It also was the first ship to respond to the New Year’s Eve grounding of the Kulluk, the Royal Dutch Shell which went aground near Kodiak Island. The Alex Haley was to be a tow ship for the Kulluk, but the tow cable snapped, and the cutter attempted to keep the rig from landing on Sitkalidak Island. The mission changed to rescue after the tow snapped. The Alex Haley then helped rescue workers from the Kulluk.

“I could not be more proud of what they did,” Zukunft said.

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