Master Chief Olson said those years were at times good and bad, challenging and tragic, but above all, rewarding.
“This has been by far the most challenging tour of my career, and by far the most tragic … and the most rewarding,” Olson said before a large crowd, which gathered at the station to celebrate the change of command. “It has been my absolute pleasure to get to know everyone here.”
Olson, after four years as station chief in Grand Haven, has been transferred to the same post in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Taking his place is Master Chief Kirk McKay, who served as station chief in Grand Haven the four years prior to Olson’s arrival.
“Master Chief McKay, we welcome you back to Grand Haven,” said Captain Thomas Stuhlreyer, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan. “You’re showing that despite conventional wisdom, you can come back home again.”
McKay expressed his excitement at returning to Grand Haven.
“It’s a blessing to be here again; a gift from God,” he said. “I have big shoes to fill, literally and figuratively, and we’ll do our best.”
Most of the morning ceremony was devoted to Olson, who first entered Coast Guard service in 1997.
After completing basic training in Cape May, New Jersey, Olson served aboard the Coast Guard cutter Buckthorn, homeported in Sault Ste. Marie, as well as the cutter Anacapa, homeported in Petersburg, Alaska, and the cutter Shackle, homeported in South Portland, Maine. He served as Executive Petty Officer aboard the Shackle.
In 2010, Olson assumed command of Aids to Navigation Team Duluth, Minnesota. Olson then assumed command of Coast Guard Station Grand Haven on June 9, 2014.
“These four years went fast,” Olson said. “This tour has been absolutely amazing, because of you, the people in the crew, the people in my fine neighborhood at Harbor Pointe, and the community at large.
“Everyone in this room made this our home, and that’s one of the most important things for us, raising a family in the Coast Guard. … I haven’t seen anything like this in my 21 years in the Coast Guard — nothing to this extent whatsoever. Thank you to everyone who came out to support me and the friends I made over the years.”
Olson made a point to mention the various other agencies he’s worked with over his four years in Grand Haven, especially the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety.
“It’s been a long four years, but when it comes to events, it was shortened by all the fun we had,” Olson said. “I can’t express my gratitude for you being there in the good times, and especially the bad times. I couldn’t have asked for better people to stand by me. Thank you, I appreciate it.”
Olson acknowledged that the move to Sturgeon Bay will be a difficult one for his family, including wife Richelle, and children Avalen, 14, Jocelyn, 12, Dene, 6, and Wren, 4.
“We move around a lot, like most Coast Guard families, but this one’s going to be a little tougher,” he said. “The friend network has grown and the roots have gotten a little deeper here, but you’ll always have this community behind you.”
During his remarks, Stuhlreyer offered a few statistics about Olson’s tenure in Grand Haven. In those four years, Coast Guard Station Grand Haven has executed 2,218 law enforcement boardings and 250 search-and-rescue cases, saving 454 lives and $3.9 million in property.
“That’s remarkable,” Stuhlreyer said. “To the crew of Station Grand Haven, thank you. You have supported Master Chief Olson and the community, and your efforts here will have a lasting impact on the people of Grand Haven, Muskegon and Holland. I could not be more proud of the job you do, day in and day out, when the weather’s warm, when the gales of November blow, and when the winter storms come.
“To Master Chief Olson, Bravo Zulu on a job really well done.”