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LI Sound Coast Guard chief takes helm, honors Shinnecock unit

Capt. Andrew E. Tucci, center, who took

Capt. Andrew E. Tucci, center, who took over the Coast Guard's Sector Long Island Sound last month, visits Long Island staff at the Shinnecock Station in Hampton Bays on July 27, 2016. Credit: Ed Betz

Inside U.S. Coast Guard Station Shinnecock, the new commander of Sector Long Island Sound, who had traveled from Connecticut to meet some of the 2,000 men and women under his charge, wanted to know what they like most about their assignments.

“The best thing I can say is I live in the Hamptons,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Elizabeth Allen, 37, of Dunbarton, New Hampshire, whose comment drew laughs from fellow guardsmen.

The question elicited mostly lighthearted responses from the more than two dozen men and women looking to ease the tension of meeting Capt. Andrew E. Tucci, who on July 8 assumed responsibilities as commander of Sector Long Island Sound, one of 37 land-based units that cover the nation’s coasts and inland waterways.

The service members at Shinnecock Station in Hampton Bays — who hail from as far as Arizona, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, and Louisiana, and as near as Patchogue and West Islip — had gathered in a small mess hall on the morning of July 27 to greet their new commander in chief.

With all eyes trained on him, Tucci, 50, addressed the guardsmen, stressing the importance of working together, building partnerships with local agencies, and taking care of one another.

“Our job is to take care of you, so you can do your jobs,” he told the group.

Tucci — who has responded to oil spills, vessel collisions, and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — supervises 530 active-duty service members, 17 civilians, 189 reservists and 1,300 volunteers.

The sector, with one of the largest recreational boating populations in the country, is headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut. It covers Long Island Sound, from Port Chester, New York, to the Connecticut-Rhode Island border, and the south shore of Long Island, including 450 miles of coastline.

It includes two Aids to Navigation teams, which place and maintain more than 1,500 buoys, beacons, and lights to help guide mariners and boaters in Long Island Sound and rivers that feed into it — similar to information drivers get from streets signs and traffic lights.

Last year, Sector Long Island Sound responded to 547 search and rescue operations, saving 77 lives, conducted 130 pollution cases and 60 accident investigations, and inspected 500 domestic vessels and 75 foreign ships for compliance with maritime laws and regulations.

During his visit to Long Island last month, Tucci presented Station Shinnecock and its subunit, Station East Moriches, the Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation, the highest peacetime award given to military commands, for outstanding service.

Despite heavier workloads brought on by a staffing shortage, the crews, from October 2014 to October 2015, led the 1st Coast Guard District, which covers eight northeast states, in conducting 1,003 vessel boardings.

In a letter, Rear Adm. S.D. Poulin in Boston, commander of the 1st Coast Guard District, praised the guardsmen, saying the men and women “displayed exceptional initiative and proficiency in craft to effectively govern maritime safety and security.”

A native of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Tucci has had a 26-year career in the Coast Guard that has taken him to five states and the District of Columbia.

His earliest assignments were in Alaska where he directed search-and-rescue and law enforcement operations. In Seattle, he responded to oil spills, vessel collisions, as well as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Washington’s Puget Sound is home port for U.S. ballistic missile submarines.

“In fact, one of my interesting jobs I got after 9/11 was to ride aboard a submarine to understand their security concerns as they were transiting in and out of their base,” he said in an interview in his office at the sector headquarters overlooking New Haven Harbor.

Tucci’s last assignment was in the District of Columbia. As the chief of the office of port and facility compliance, he helped port facilities and commercial vessels guard against cyberattacks.

In his new role, Tucci doesn’t plan on making changes to personnel or vessel deployment. He plans to manage the unit in the same manner as his predecessor, Capt. Edward Cubanski, who retired after 28 years in the service.

“At the end of the three years, if everyone in the Coast Guard says, ‘Boy, I am really happy to be here at Sector Long Island Sound,’ and the people of Long Island and Connecticut say, ‘Boy, I really respect the Coast Guard and they really helped us out on a lot of things in the last couple of years,’ then this will have been a successful tour for me,” Tucci said.

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