Multiple USCG Changes of Command Take Place on West Coast

Vice Adm. Andrew J. Tiongson and Vice Adm. Michael F. McAllister shake hands during the Pacific Area change-of-command ceremony on Base Alameda, Calif., July 8. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda L. Fagan presided over the ceremony in which Tiongson relieved McAllister as the
Pacific Area commander. U. S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Giles.

Vice Adm. Andrew J. Tiongson is the new commander of U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area Command, taking over for Vice Adm. Michael F. McAllister in leading the 13,000 USCG members through various missions and activities in the Arctic, the Antarctic, the Eastern and Western Pacific and Oceania.

The change of command ceremony was held July 8 on Coast Guard Base Alameda in Northern California.

During the previous two years, Tiongson was the U.S. Southern Command director of operations, overseeing planning and execution of activities related to the command’s area of responsibility, which included 27 democratic nations in Central and South America, according to USCG.

“Today is a special day where we applaud Vice Adm. McAllister on his service to the nation, especially this last year as he inspired and led the men and women of the Pacific Area command,” Tiongson said. “I am committed to the members of the Pacific Area team and am excited to execute Coast Guard missions throughout the region, along with our partner agencies, while adhering to the principles of strategic leadership, proficiency and teamwork.”

Tiongson has spent his career on five Coast Guard cutters and one U.S. Navy vessel, as well as various staff positions, including budget coordinator, program reviewer and office chief in the Office of Budget and Programs.

He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy; he also has two master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and environmental and energy management from George Washington University, according to the USCG.

In other news, Capt. James Spitler is the new commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego, taking over for Capt. Timothy Barelli, who has retired after 26 years of service.

The change of command was made official July 14 in a ceremony in San Diego with Rear Adm. Andrew M. Sugimoto, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District, presiding.

(Left) Capt. James Spitler relieves Capt. Timothy Barelli as the Coast Guard Sector San Diego commander during a change of command ceremony in San Diego, July 14. Rear Adm. Andrew M. Sugimoto, the 11th Coast Guard District commander, presided over the ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Stanton. (Right) Capt. William Woityra, commanding officer of the Coast Guard cutter Polar Star speaks to the crew during Polar Star’s change of command ceremony held at dry dock in Vallejo, Calif., July 11,. Capt. Keith Ropella relived Woityra as Polar Star’s commanding officer during the change of command ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Katharina Commins.

Spitler previously served as chief of the domestic operations division, directorate of operations of the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado.

“Since 1934, the Coast Guard has selflessly served the city of San Diego,’’ Spitler said. “We are a part of this legacy and with my guiding principles of people, proficiency and professionalism we will continue to be Semper Paratus (Always Ready) for years to come.”

Spitler, a Pensacola, Fla. Native, obtained his commission from the Coast Guard Academy in 1997. He earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Purdue University.

Additionally, Capt. Keith Ropella is the new commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Polar Star, succeeding Capt. William Woityra, who has been assigned to the Oceania Policy Division at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Honolulu.

Vice Adm. Tiongson presided over the command change July 11 at the Maritime Museum in Vallejo, Calif.

Ropella, who previously worked at the Office of Navigation Systems at Coast Guard Headquarters, takes charge of a soon-to-be upgraded Polar Star. The country’s sole heavy icebreaker is being outfitted with newer “machinery monitoring and controlling and propulsion power systems during the dry dock maintenance period to improve reliability and align the 46-year-old cutter with the modern fleet,” according to the USCG.

“It has been an incredible honor to have served these fine men and women as Polar Star’s commanding officer,” Woityra said. “This team has made tremendous sacrifices, but never shied from our critical calling to operate in the most remote and hostile environments on the planet. We have accomplished so much over the last two years because of this incredible team.”

The cutter’s 155 crew members travel to Antarctica every year to support the U.S. Antarctic Program and National Science Foundation, cutting through very thick ice to provide a pathway for vessels carrying vital supplies to McMurdo Station, Scott-Amundsen South Pole Station and other international outposts.

Lastly, Capt. Robert S. Mohr is the new commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Waesche. He has taken over for Capt. Jason H. Ryan, who is expected to serve as chief of operations for the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area Command in Alameda.

Vice Adm. Tiongson, again presided over the change-of-command, which was held July 15 at Base Alameda in California.

“The Waesche crew truly embodies their official motto of strength, endurance and service,” Tiongson said. “I am proud of this crew, led by Capt. Ryan, for their continuous pursuit of operational proficiency, consummate teamwork and their strategic leadership to support rules-based maritime governance in the Indo-Pacific.”

Mohr brings 10 years of sea service to the Legend class national security cutter and its crew, which includes being the commanding officer aboard the Coast Guard cutter Diligence in Wilmington, N.C. He recently finished Senior Service School at the National Defense University’s Eisenhower School and has a master’s degree in national resource strategy.