Change of Watch: MCPOCG in Cape May


Thirty-two years ago when Michael P. Leavitt joined the Coast Guard and completed boot camp in Cape May, he probably did not envision his own Change of Watch ceremony, on the same parade field from where he graduated. His original interest in the Coast Guard piqued when he saw a poster on a telephone pole in his home town.

On Thursday May 22, 2014, Master Chief Petty Officer Steven W. Cantrell relieved the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Leavitt, in a time-honored ceremony presided over by the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Robert Papp. The Commandant was introduced with a volley of cannon fire to open the ceremony on the parade grounds of Training Center Cape May, the Coast Guard’s only boot camp location.

In his remarks, Admiral Papp recalled interviewing Master Chief Leavitt for the office. Leavitt called the Admiral’s office to reschedule the interview so he could be available for the birth of his grandchild. Admiral Papp commented “the Master Chief’s priority of family first, made a significant impact on the selection decision.”

Rivaling any commencement, the change-of-watch ceremony is a time-honored event preserved by rich heritage of naval tradition. It is a formal custom that is designed to strengthen the respect of authority, which is vital to any military organization. The highlight of the ceremony is reached when both members read their orders, face one another, salute and transfer responsibility of the command.

Immediately following the change of watch, Master Chief Petty Officer Leavitt retired after his thirty-two years of service. During his service the Master Chief received numerous personal awards including the Meritorious Service Medal. He said he plans to return to his hometown of Fruitland, Idaho and serve in his community as an athletic coach.

Master Chief Petty Officer Steven W. Cantrell enlisted in the Coast Guard in September of 1983 and attended Recruit Training Center in Cape May. He becomes the 12th Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard.

“To the men and women of the world’s best Coast Guard – I am proud to wear the same uniform as all of you,” said Cantrell. “I am honored to be afforded the opportunity to be your voice. To Master Chief Leavitt, I would like to say thank you. Thank you, both Mike and Deb, for your years of service and sacrifice. I wish you and your family fair winds and calm seas in the next chapter of your lives.”

Cantrell is reporting from his previous assignment as command master chief of Coast Guard Atlantic Area.

The responsibilities and activities of the MCPOCG include: assisting in the development of policy for managing the enlisted workforce of the Coast Guard; traveling to units to address service members on quality of life and personnel issues; formal testimonials before Congress; representing enlisted quality of life issues by speaking to various civilian and military committees and forums; and maintaining a strong relationship with service organizations and companies that support enlisted personnel issues.

The office of the master chief petty officer of the Coast Guard was established by legislative action on Aug. 27, 1969, to provide the commandant of the Coast Guard with a personal adviser and assistant in matters affecting the enlisted members of the service, both active-duty and reserve, and their families. The MCPOCG is the most senior enlisted member of the Coast Guard. The normal tour of assignment is four years, which runs concurrently with the commandant. The MCPOCG must be a living example of the Coast Guard’s core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty. Individuals who are selected to serve in this prestigious position must possess the highest standards of professionalism and personal integrity.

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