Photos by Chantelle Meyer and Deborah Heldt Cordone
June 2, 2018 — U.S. Coast Guard Station Siuslaw River held a change of command ceremony Friday as outgoing Master Chief Timothy N. Tregoning received new orders and incoming Senior Chief Joseph J. “Jay” Nilles accepted command.
“The change of command ceremony is a revered military tradition, which formally restates the continuity and authority of the command,” said Chief Petty Officer Kevin Smith, the master of ceremonies. “It is a formal custom conducted before the assembled crew and confirms to the men and women of the unit that the authority of the command is maintained. The ceremony is a transfer of total responsibility, authority and accountability from one individual to another.”
The event was full of symbolism, with several back and forth moments between then and now, former and current. Through it all, the Station Siuslaw River crew remained standing.
Captain Michael Mullen, commander of Sector North Bend, presided over the service. He talked about Station Siuslaw River and its performance in recent reviews and inspections.
“You knocked it out of the park. Absolutely impressive,” Mullen said. “You perform not only to standard, but to the highest standard. … A job well done.”
Tregoning and his wife Amy, along with children Jon and Berkley, have served at Station Siuslaw River since 2015.
“The last three years have brought us many successes and some struggles, and through it all we’ve experienced them together as a family — whether that be as a sector, as a community or as a unit,” Tregoning said.
Mullen highlighted some of the station’s accomplishments in that time.
“Over the last three years as a station, you have completed over 550 law enforcement boardings, 85 search and rescue cases and were responsible for saving and assisting an impressive 129 lives and over $5.5 million worth of property. There are people walking around Florence today talking and enjoying the Oregon coast because your willingness and professionalism to go out and answer the call,” he said.
These actions happened due to the team at Station Siuslaw River, Mullen said, as well as the man at the helm, Tregoning.
In that three years, Tregoning was instrumental in drawing Sector North Bend’s attention to infrastructure needs at the station. His partnerships and friendships with the City of Florence, Oregon Coast Military Museum, Coast Guard Auxiliary Public Affairs Specialist Deborah Heldt Cordone and community members also helped make Florence the 24th Coast Guard City in August 2017.
“Things are done better when working as a team — the sum of all parts are greater than the whole,” Mullen said. “For the people here in Florence, you should be extremely proud and thankful that we have these men and women standing in watch to make sure you are safe.”
Tregoning addressed thanks to the City of Florence, local emergency response organizations, veteran and civic groups and community partners. He also thanked Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 52 for its constant support of Station Siuslaw River and its personnel.
“Family is where I’d like to focus my remarks today,” Tregoning said. “To the crew of Station Siuslaw River, I am most appreciative that you are always there to help a shipmate in need. As with any family, we have our occasional disagreements and squabbles … but when it really matters, you guys have always been there for each other. The words that were read are a reflection of your successes, which there have been many. … I have been very proud to watch you grow with one another, and I will miss every one of you.”
Afterward, Mullen returned to the podium and confirmed that Nilles was still up to the task.
Nilles comes to Florence with his wife Erin and their children Zakary and Maci. He last served as officer in charge of Station Morro Bay in California.
Mullen offered him words of encouragement through his leadership philosophy — “Serve with compassion, act with purpose and model professionalism.”
“I know you’re ready for command, and congratulations,” Mullen said. “You’ll find that command is the most challenging assignment. You’re at the varsity level now. …
“Command will hit you when you ask the question, and there are crickets and big eyes looking at you. You’ll go, ‘What do we do?’ And you’ll turn to see everyone looking at you. See, it is you that will hold that answer. It is you that the members of Station Siuslaw River are going to turn to. It is you that will be expected to make those tough choices. Command will be the most frustrating, the most exhilarating, most fun, most — insert your own word. You won’t know what that word is yet until you sit in the seat.”
At that point in the ceremony Tregoning read his orders relieving him of duties at Station Siuslaw River and Nilles read his orders to accept the command.
“To the crew, and now my shipmates of Station Siuslaw River, I accept this challenge to lead you with a high level of pride and professionalism that we will adhere to as team Siuslaw,” Nilles said. “Together as a team, we will work to continue to strengthen relationships within the City of Florence, the community and our partner agencies. We will stand the watch with pride, professionalism and dignity.
We have a duty to the people we serve, and their lives depend on us. We owe them the very best. We will do everything we can as a team to continue our commitment to excellence.”
“Welcome to the varsity,” Mullen said. “I have every confidence that you will succeed and lead well, develop a cohesive team, reach new heights and help your people achieve what they thought was not possible.”
Tregoning and Nilles have known each other for nearly 20 years.
“To Senior Chief Jay Nilles, Erin, Zak and Maci, welcome to the Station Siuslaw River family,” Tregoning said. “It’s a fantastic family to be a part of. Jay, I am excited to hear about the successes you will experience with your crew in the years ahead.”
Nilles in turn thanked Tregoning for the warm welcome his family had received, as well as the professionalism of the Station Siuslaw River Crew.
“Since arriving here just over a week ago, Master Chief Tregoning and the crew of Station Siuslaw River have opened their doors with overwhelming support for this transition between officers in charge. Master chief, your work here shows. The pride the crew has in everything from their uniforms to the boats’ appearance, to the maintenance of these buildings and the surrounding grounds, the housing units they live in and their training regimen, and their professionalism, are beyond reproach. I’m honored to follow behind you as the next officer in charge of Station Siuslaw River.”
Both men got the chance to thank their families.
Tregoning came off the stage to present his family gifts.
“To Amy, Jon, Berkley and Mom, thank you for supporting me and my shipmates and for your steadfast love and support of all of us. I look forward to what our future holds, and I love you very much,” he said.
Nilles expressed his love and appreciation for his wife, children and parents.
“The days of responding to the station for an incident on the docks, on the beach and on the ocean are once again on the docket,” he said. “I will strive not to leave you stranded at baseball games and grocery stores — but sometimes, when the bell rings, you respond.”
Both men then addressed Station Siuslaw River and the community.
“Thank you all for the tremendous support for the crew of Station Siuslaw River, for the families of the station, both active duty and auxiliary, and the community that supports us and keeps us here,” Tregoning said.
Nilles added, “I look forward to carrying on the fine traditions of Station Siuslaw River.”
The ceremony ended with a benediction by Coast Guard Auxiliary Chaplain Pastor Michael Barnard, who opened the ceremony with an invocation, and the retiring of the colors by the Station Siuslaw River Color Guard. In addition, a reception afterwards featured light hors d’oeuvres and cakes by CS3 Savannah Leffler and her culinary team.