Coast Guard officer picked for flag rank

Posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Capt. Richard Houck, a Coast Guard officer stationed in Juneau, has been slated to receive a flag officer position.

Houck is serving as chief of staff for Alaska, which is the Coast Guard's 17th District. The Coast Guard has announced he will be promoted to rear admiral in the upcoming months, pending congressional approval. He will continue with his current duties.

"I've been working with some great folks," Houck said. "I've been real fortunate in my assignments. They're ones that have taken advantage of my skills. ... I'm kind of (skilled at) organizational, development, leadership stuff, and wherever I've gone, that's what's been needed."

Houck graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1975 with bachelor of science degrees in nuclear engineering and naval architecture-marine engineering. In many of his early tours of duty, he served as chief engineer for ship-building projects at bases around the country.

"I've been on the support side most of the time, providing logistics and helping the folks who are out there on the front lines," Houck said. "I've kind of done a whole bunch of stuff, fun things. You never really know what you're walking into."

He was assigned to Alaska last summer, Houck said. As chief of staff, he provides assistance to Rear Adm. James Underwood, commander of the Coast Guard in Alaska, and helps run day-to-day operations throughout the state.

"It really is varied," Houck said. "You get involved with a lot of people issues, a lot of the organizational processes, which is always a challenge. Of course, overcoming the challenge (is harder) up here in Alaska with the limited infrastructure."

Though Houck commanded the Coast Guard Integrated Support Command in Portsmouth, Va., he said the statewide focus of his post in Alaska makes the job very different from his previous assignments.

"I haven't really had a job like this before," Houck said. "And to me, that's the enjoyment, walking in to new things and learning and getting to tweak them and make them better to the extent that you can."

Houck and his wife, Lani Leary, likely will leave Alaska next summer, after Houck's two-year assignment in the state is complete. They have one daughter, Whitney, who is an ensign on the Morganthau, a Coast Guard cutter ported in Alameda, Calif.

Houck said he's ready for whatever comes next.

"It's fun," he said. "It's all an adventure."

Genevieve Gagne-Hawes can be reached at

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