Daily Astorian: New Commander Takes Over Columbia River Coast Guard Sector

daily_astorian | June 30, 2014 1 p.m. | Updated: July 2, 2014 2:44 p.m.

Contributed By:

Edward Stratton / The Daily Astorian

Coast Guard Capt. Daniel Travers takes over Sector Columbia River

An American flag two to three stories high, which three years ago heralded the transfer of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Sector Columbia River from the retiring Capt. Doug Kaup, a veteran of 31 years, to Capt. Bruce Jones, unfurled again Friday in front of hundreds of active and retired Guardsmen, friends and family.

This time, Jones retired after 31 years standing watch and transfered command to Capt. Daniel Travers, who transfers in from Juneau, Alaska.

“You’re surrounded by true professionals, and more than a few heroes,” said Jones, giving Travers and the public an overview of the complex composition of Sector Columbia River.

Headquartered in Astoria but spanning three states and much of the Columbia River Basin, the sector covers a wide variety of missions along 420 miles of coast and 465 miles of inland rivers in Oregon, southern Washington and southern Idaho. It includes 11 river bars, the centerpiece being the Columbia River bar, “The Graveyard of the Pacific.”

The Coast Guard ensures maritime safety and security on one of the busiest commercial and recreational waterways in the world, along with environmental protection. It executes those with a workforce of 500 active duty, 105 reserve, 29 civilian and 890 volunteer auxiliary personnel.

Travers, short on words after a whirlwind tour of the sector’s units from Kennewick, Wash., to Astoria and Cape Disappointment, lauded the professionalism of its men and women, arrayed before him in the hangar, and cast himself as a main support for their missions.

“I intend to set clear goals, get you the resources you need to do your job, ensure your professional development and well-being and stand clear in a supportive and empowering way, to allow you to continue to accomplish great things,” said Travers about his leadership philosophy.

No novice to expansive areas of operation, Travers comes from District 17 in Juneau, where he was chief of the Incident Management Branch from 2011 to 2014, overseeing an area spanning 3.8 million square miles of ocean and 44,000 miles of coastline. For three years prior, he commanded Air Station Detroit.

Travers moves to Astoria with wife Caroline and children Benjamin, Kristen and Jennifer. He was unable to be interviewed for the story.

Sector Columbia River falls under the command of District 13. The district’s commander, Rear Adm. Richard Gromlich, oversaw the change of command and stressed the importance of teamwork, with one caveat.

“There’s ultimately one individual responsible, and that’s the commanding officer,” said Gromlich, praising Jones for his management of such a diverse caseload and conveying his confidence in Travers.

During Jones’ time, said Gromlich, the sector conducted more than 1,300 rescues helping more than 3,000 people and saving more than $110 million in property. The rescues took place from miles into the Pacific Ocean to the side of Mount Adams, more than 110 miles east of Astoria, and farther upriver. It’s also performed 1,500 hazardous material cleanups, possibly the most famous being the seven-month, nearly $20 million cleanup of the barge Davy Crockett on the Columbia between Vancouver and Camas, Wash.

In addition to direct missions, Gromlich said Jones has also helped in the Coast Guard’s transition to sectors, provided leadership programs for junior officers and is on countless regional committees related to the agency’s missions.

The men and women of the Coast Guard, said Jones, can be found on the ebbing tide of the Columbia River bar to cliffs above the Snake River, removing rattlesnakes from aids to navigation that help commercial vessels reach into Idaho. The Coast Guard maintains hundreds of aids to navigation along the Columbia and Snake rivers to help pilots navigate the narrow shipping channels.

Among many other high-profile missions, they provided vessel security during union strikes at grain terminals upriver and closely watch over the Buoy 10 recreational fishery and Portland Rose Festival every year.

“Dan, I left you a present on your desk,” said Jones in a parting jest, describing a box labeled with “crude oil,” “ethanol” and “liquefied natural gas,” all highly controversial energy exports and proposals on the lower Columbia the Coast Guard must oversee the security and safety of. “Have fun with that.”

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