Despite it being his moment in the spotlight, Chief Boatswains Mate Ryan W. O'Meara held up his Meritorious Service Award toward his crew and gave thanks for a job well done.
"Guys, this award is for you," O'Meara said. "Thanks for your hard work, I appreciate it."
O'Meara was speaking during a change of command ceremony Tuesday afternoon on the dock behind the United States Coast Guard Station in Juneau. After three years as Officer In Charge of the Juneau small boat station, he will now head to Honolulu with a promotion to chief warrant officer and a new assignment as an auxiliary trainer.
"He is a very strong leader," said Capt. Melissa Bert, who presented O'Meara with the award. "Both in the station and with our port partners, he is very well-liked in the community. The Meritorious Service Medal is reserved for extraordinary people, and he is extraordinary."
O'Meara and his crew were responsible for search and rescue, law enforcement and security in the Juneau area. He is being relieved by Chief Petty Officer James A. Greenlief, who was previously stationed in Oregon.
"I am going to miss my crew," O'Meara said following the ceremony, "and the camaraderie we have here, working hard every day.
"I loved everything about Juneau - the community and the local people I have met and become friends with. ... I will never forget that."
O'Meara listed his unit's personal achievements as being equally important to the professional ones: six new marriages; nine healthy and beautiful babies; a Coast Guard family of the year award; six newly-purchased homes; 18 graduates with applied science degrees from Vincennes University; 12 graduates with 100-ton captain certification; nine times recognized by the Area Chiefs Mess; 11 letters of commendations, 11 achievement medals and six commendation medals.
Some of O'Meara's highlights while stationed here included being called to return to the station when a black bear was on the back deck - and the video taken of it showing crewmen running for their vehicles; learning to eat spam on hunting trips; becoming a wood-cutting logger and owning his first chainsaw; and helping to resuscitate a Juneau man who suffered a heart attack last year.
O'Meara was particularly proud of his crew for towing the 1,400-ton Spirit of Glacier Bay to safety with a 47-foot motor life boat and a 25-foot response boat, both undersized for the mission. The act rescued 65 people and helped to prevent a disaster in Glacier Bay.
"I knew everyone from headquarters to the Sector had their fingers crossed thinking, "What is this Chief doing?" O'Meara said of towing the massive cruise ship. "I knew we were well trained and prepared, could think out side of the box and that this crew could do it."
Under O'Meara, the crew of Station Juneau has rescued 144 people, completed over 1,300 law enforcement boardings and executed over 130 security escorts. His crew also scored excellent on every standardized inspection.
"Thank you for buying what I was selling," O'Meara said to his crew. "I very much appreciate that. We accomplished things that are unheard of at a small boat station. Always look after your shipmates, be that person who has everyone else's interest first before your own, and you will be successful.
"And to use this quote from our local paper, "That is just what we do!"
O'Meara said he and his wife, Summer, will return to Juneau in a few years so their children, ages 10 and 7, can attend high school here.
"We'll we back," he said.
Contact Klas Stolpe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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