ASTORIA - A new commanding officer took charge of U.S. Coast Guard Group/Air Station Astoria last Friday at a ceremony steeped in tradition despite changing times in the federal maritime agency.
Standing in front of an American flag that filled one side of the air station hangar, and flanked by local crew members and the 104th Army band out of Vancouver, Capt. Michael Farrell passed command to Capt. Peter Troedsson.
Troedsson is a Los Angeles native with degrees in national security studies, political science, public administration and Scandinavian languages.
Farrell said he was leaving the Lower Columbia region with mixed emotions. It was his first assignment in the Pacific Northwest; it was also his first and likely only command position.
"It means leaving the people I work with," he said. "Rest assured the men and women stationed here, active or reserve, civilian or auxiliary, they all live the Coast Guard's core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty."
He'll also miss the local communities.
"I really think the people in Astoria, Warrenton, Seaside and this neck of Ilwaco have really welcomed myself and my family into the community, and that was very, very nice," Farrell said in an earlier interview. "I think that's going to be hard to leave."
For the past three years, Farrell has worn two hats.
The commanding officer at the air station oversees air operations, including flight schedules, affecting the Coast Guard's ability to conduct search and rescue missions and to carry out maritime law enforcement, fisheries enforcement and maritime homeland security.
The group commander is responsible not just for helicopters, but three small boat stations, and provides limited support to an Aids to Navigation Team, three Coast Guard cutters, the National Motor Lifeboat School in Ilwaco, and the Advanced Rescue Swimmer School.
Farrell filled both roles in an area of responsibility that stretches from Washington's Queets River in the north to Oregon's Cape Kiwanda in the south, and along the Columbia River east to Longview.
At the air station ceremony, he was credited with building partnerships between the Coast Guard and other military and local agencies, in one case spearheading an exercise that mimicked a mass rescue operation involving a cruise ship, the American Red Cross, local law enforcement, ambulance services and other agencies at Astoria's East Mooring Basin.
Many of those agencies were represented among the hundreds of people in the ceremony's audience, which included State Sen. Betsy Johnson and State Rep. Deborah Boone.
"I think that was a real success," Farrell said. "It was one of the first times we ever got everybody together to actually do that kind of an exercise."
He also built a law enforcement team that exceeded federal expectations, according to an award citation with the Meritorious Service medal he received Friday.
Rear Adm. Richard Houck, commander of the region's 13th Coast Guard District, acknowledged the outgoing captain's accomplishments, adding that Farrell will move on to "a new job of considerable, if not different responsibility," as the Coast Guard Attache to the American Embassy in Mexico City.
"Captain Farrell has done an outstanding job of building a network of local, city, county, federal and state departments," Houck said.
The new three-year assignment will send the captain, his wife, Vicki, and their 16-year-old daughter, Colleen, to Washington, D.C., for one year before Mexico. There, Farrell will work for the defense intelligence agency.
At the air station on Friday, Capt. Troedsson, the incoming commander, said he hopes to continue Farrell's success, "to carry out our ongoing homeland security missions and collaborate to prevent and respond to threats."
Troedsson, a commissioned officer since 1984, is the former commanding officer of an air station in Georgia and most recently spent a year at Air Force College and trained at an aviation center in Mobile, Ala.
The former commander said the Coast Guard is "in a time of change," and part of Troedsson's job will involve adapting to new policies and directions.
But Friday's ceremony was all about tradition, keeping with the continuity of command.
Troedsson looks forward to that duty.
"I'm very happy to be back," he said. "To be back in the operational Coast Guard is about as good as it gets."