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Howard takes over command of Sector Field Office Grand Haven

Becky Vargo • Jul 24, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Lt. Brian Howard said his father inspired him to join the U.S. Coast Guard and that the community inspired him to request Grand Haven as his next assignment.

The new commander of Sector Field Office Grand Haven took charge in a change-of-command ceremony July 20.

A Maryland native, Howard assumes his role from Lt. Cmdr. Aaron Urbanawiz.

Urbanawiz has accepted a promotion and assignment to Hawaii, where he will be branch chief in charge of telecommunications for the Coast Guard’s District 14. His coverage area will include Hawaii, Samoa, Guam, Saipan and Southeast Asia.

“I’ll be busy,” Urbanawiz said, as he packed up items from his office Sunday night.

Howard, 31, comes to Grand Haven from Galveston, Texas, where he was the engineer officer aboard the Coast Guard cutter Dauntless. He said this is his first time in the Midwest and he’s excited to be in Grand Haven in time for the Coast Guard Festival.

“I heard a lot about the Coast Guard Festival when I got my orders here — we’re thrilled to be here,” Howard said of himself and his wife, Alena.

Howard is a 2009 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. He completed a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. He is a licensed professional engineer.

Howard started work in Grand Haven on July 16 and officially took over command following last week’s ceremony.

He has been in the Coast Guard for nine years. Howard said he explored different areas of service, at one time wanting to be a fighter pilot in the Navy, while in high school.

His father, who worked with Coast Guard personnel while being employed by the National Park Service, encouraged his son to explore that option. Once he learned more about the Coast Guard, Howard said it was a better fit for him than the Navy.

“Every day you’re doing the mission and the world’s a better place for it,” he said. Otherwise, you spend years training for a mission that you hope never happens, he said.

Urbanawiz, who has been in the Coast Guard since 1996, said he enjoyed his time in Grand Haven. In fact, he requested a year extension to his tour and received it.

“The community feeling here … everybody is welcoming and friendly,” Urbanawiz said.

One thing that stood out for the Midland native during his time in Grand Haven was how people in the community look out for each other.

“I was kind of surprised how the community comes together when anything needs to be done,” Urbanawiz said. He noted the catwalk, Waterfront Stadium and the newer Coast Guard boat at the entrance to the city as examples. “They form a committee and they just take care of it,” he said. “You don’t see that in every community.”

Urbanawiz said his goal is to make commander by the time he has 30 years in the Coast Guard. After Hawaii, he hopes to make it back for a tour in Cleveland before he retires, likely to Michigan.

Urbanawiz enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1996. He is a graduate of the Chief Petty Officers Academy Class 151 and Chief Warrant Officer Professional Development Class 2005-09.

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