There’s a formulaic nature to the Coast Guard’s change of command ceremony, in that grand old, military way. It’s not quite pomp and circumstance, at least not at the small boat station level. While there certainly are traditions involving uniforms and flags and medals and more, with small boat station crews the focus is on unit pride and family.
So, yes, when Coast Guard Station Point Allerton’s commanding officer, Chief Warrant Officer T.J. Malvesti, handed control of the station to the prospective commanding officer, Chief Warrant Officer Justin B. Young, there was the reading of orders, the formal declaration of respect from Young to Malvesti with directions to the crew that “All standing orders remain in effect,” and more.
“The change of command ceremony of the military service is a formal, time-honored ceremony conducted before the assembled officers and enlisted persons of a command that formally restates the continuing authority of that command,” said master of ceremonies Boatswain’s Mate First Class (BM1) Matthew Karas. “The ceremony is unique in the world today, having no counterpart in business or civilian government. It is a formal ritual conducted before the assembled company of the command which serves as a visible symbol of the transfer of total responsibility, authority and accountability, from one individual to another.” In that way, the ceremony on July 1 was just like any other change of command that takes place on average every three years at any small boat station anywhere in the United States.
It’s what happens in those intervening three years that makes each change of command different.
“I’ve been so fortunate to have Chief Warrant Officer Malvesti in central leadership at Station Point Allerton for the last three years,” said Capt. Eric J. Doucette, commander, Coast Guard Sector Boston, “and have witnessed the unit, the crew, and the community here continue to flourish under his leadership.” That is generally what is expected from a commanding officer; each Guardian should grow and advance on his or her chosen path in the service under the watch of a good commanding officer. But it was the unexpected that made Malvesti’s tour so unusual.
When Malvesti arrived in June 2018, the station was undergoing a major renovation. Issues with contractors, though, led to long delays and needed workarounds. The project continued for almost two years. The windows, air conditioning, and heating in the main building had all been removed, and when winter approached Malvesti and the crew operated the station – deploying boats for routine patrols, responding to distress calls, escorting LNG tankers – from the ancillary corners of the campus, including the living quarters next to the station and the boathouse.
Then, in 2019, there was the “partial” 35-day government shutdown. If you were in the Coast Guard at that time, it sure felt like a full shutdown, as Coast Guardsmen were not paid. Understanding the importance of their mission, they continued to work, to patrol, to enact rescues, to make law enforcement boardings, to put their own safety at risk, while some had no idea whether their children would be fed. “There’s no playbook for how to get your workforce to do the job when they’re not getting paid,” said Doucette. But, he said, the local communities stood behind the men and women serving in the Coast Guard in the Boston area. “The kindness of the communities sustained us. That support that we received from the communities will never be forgotten.”
Then, throw in COVID, and the bizarre statistical anomalies it throws us every day. While COVID reigned, the Coast Guard saw an average increase in search and rescue cases of 22 percent. The freedom of the ocean and the social distancing it offered tempted more recreational boaters (and kayakers, paddleboarders, et al.) to get underway, maybe not fully qualified to do an of these activities and often misunderstanding how cold the water can be in March when ambient temperatures may feel just right.
Malvesti deflected credit and thanked his crew for all it had done under his command. He thanked the various partnering agencies, the fire departments and police forces in Hull and Scituate, the harbormasters in all the nearby coastal towns, and more. And he thanked the local communities themselves. “To the town of Hull,” he said, “you guys have been nothing but outstanding. I appreciate everything you do for us day in and day out.”
Not only does the town consistently embody its Coast Guard City designation, he said, “but during the partial government shutdown, when our crews momentarily lost pay and we didn’t have a lot of operational funding, the town rallied together in cooperation with the Hull Lifesaving Museum and they solicited donations for us and really eased the burden on our crews.” Food donations, gift cards, whatever they could find, the people of Hull found ways to support the men and women of the Coast Guard in their time of need. “We thank you for that.” He thanked the crew and told its members to support their incoming commanding officer, to whom he then turned and said, “Justin, please take care of them.”
The gathering served a secondary purpose for Malvesti, as the transfer from Station Point Allerton for Malvesti was directly to his home in Scituate and to retirement after three decades of service to his country. He became a statistical anomaly himself, that rare breed (15 percent of 1 percent) of Americans who join the military and then retire from it. As a final thank you, the service presented Malvesti the Meritorious Service Medal. While at Station Point Allerton, Malvesti’s crews completed 1,732 missions, 879 law enforcement boardings, 428 search and rescue cases saving or assisting 289 lives, and 70 liquid natural gas escorts.
Now, he “detaches from all duties” and figures out his next great adventure. For the moment, that’s reveling in the amount of free time he gets to be a husband to his wife Doreen and his kids, Emily and Ryan. There will be no more mandated uprooting and relocating, no changing schools, no need to start friendships anew because all your most recent friends now live hundreds of miles away in Texas or Washington, D.C., or Rhode Island. Now he gets to be DJ T.J., maybe playing a party near you.
Each commanding officer comes with a long history in the service. CWO Malvesti, born in Gloucester, started pulling lobster traps as a young boy, worked at his local yacht club, and got the Coast Guard bug when he witnessed the power of the local station’s boats out on the water. His career took him to Texas, to Nantucket, to Castle Hill, Rhode Island, and to sea on the USCGC Reliance, out of Portsmouth, N.H., and the USCGC Grand Isle, out of Gloucester. He served as a trainer at the National Regional Fisheries Training Center on Cape Cod and as the Boatswain’s Mate Assignment Officer at the Coast Guard Personnel Service Center in Washington, D.C. For 60 days after Sept. 11, 2001, he was Deck Watch Officer and primary Boarding Officer on Grand Isle in support of Operation Guarding Liberty.
Young has served “ashore” at Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and at sea for almost 11 years on the Coast Guard’s 420-foot polar icebreaker USCGC Healy out of Seattle, Wash., the USCGC Matinicus out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, the USCGC Abbie Burgess, a buoy tender in Rockland, Maine, and, most recently, as the commanding officer of the USCGC Sea Fox out of Silverdale, Wash.
And so the long unbroken line of station keepers and commanding officers reaching back to Joshua James in the late 1800s continues. Three years from now, Justin Young will hand the sword of command to the next commanding officer, and that ceremony will look much the same as this one did. What will happen in the next three years? Who knows?
But one thing is for sure. Whatever happens, under such leadership, the crew at Station Point Allerton will be ready.