U.S. Coast Guard officers, state officials and other Alaskans filled Centennial Hall today to witness the change of command for the U.S. Coast Guard's chief Alaska officer.
Rear Adm. James W. Underwood relieved Rear Adm. Thomas J. Barrett as commander of the Coast Guard's 17th District, which oversees Alaska waters.
Barrett has served as commander of the district for the past three years. He was nominated by President Bush to become a Coast Guard vice admiral and a vice commandant the second-highest position in the Coast Guard. He is scheduled to begin his new assignment on May 30.
Barrett, who has spent 13 years in Alaska, will move to Washington, D.C., to serve under the new Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Thomas H. Collins.
During his tenure, Barrett worked to strengthen relations between the Coast Guard and the Russian Far East Border Guard. He also oversaw Coast Guard response to safety and pollution issues stemming in part from the growth of Alaska's visitor industry.
He said the agency's successes came from cooperation with other groups, such as Alaska State Troopers, the state Fish and Game Department, and Native organizations.
"We don't do anything by ourselves," he said. ""We're in it
From 1984 to 1987 Underwood served in Cordova as commander of the buoy tender Sweetbrier. Following his service in Alaska, he went on to command ships in Florida and South Carolina. He since has served as national security adviser to Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta.
Underwood said he's glad to be back in the state.
"I found people in Alaska come together to achieve goals," he said. "I always subscribed to the notion that anyone who likes hard work is going to love the Coast Guard in Alaska."