New Coast Guard commandant takes the helm

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Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. assumed command Tuesday as the commandant of the Coast Guard, relieving Adm. Thad W. Allen during a military ceremony at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C.

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"I am honored to serve as the 24th commandant of the Coast Guard," Papp said in a statement. "When I assumed the duties from Admiral Thad Allen ... it concluded a series of key rotations and marked the setting of a new watch to lead our service."

During the ceremony, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates awarded Allen the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano presided over the change of command and awarded Allen the Homeland Security Distinguished Service Medal.

While the ceremony marks the end of Allen's term as commandant, he will continue to serve as the National Incident Commander for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, managing the response effort.

Papp reports to Coast Guard Headquarters from Portsmouth, Va., where he served as commander of the Coast Guard Atlantic Area since 2008. In this position, he served as the operational commander for all Coast Guard missions from the Rocky Mountains east to central Asia, covering more than half of the world, including the recent Haitian earthquake disaster response, Coast Guard support to Operation Iraqi Freedom and counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean.

Allen became the 23rd commandant of the Coast Guard on May 25, 2006. He has led the largest component of the Department of Homeland Security, comprising 42,000 men and women on active duty, 7,000 civilians, 8,000 reservists and 34,000 volunteer Coast Guard Auxiliarists.

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