Master Chief Petty Officer Pete Janusch, officer in charge at U.S. Coast Guard Station Chetco River, and his wife, Michelle Meihsner, receive a salute from the station crew as they leave. Janusch retired from a 30-year career in the Coast Guard and plans to move for the Humboldt County area in California. Janusch has been replaced by Senior Chief Petty Officer Kirk McKay as officer in charge of the station.
Under a steady drizzle of rain, Coast Guard Officer in Charge (OIC) Pete Janusch “passed across the bow and headed ashore,” relieved of his duties after 30 years with the maritime military service.
Boatswain’s Mate Senior Chief Kirk W. McKay will take over Janusch’s duties at the U.S. Coast Guard Station Chetco River.
About 150 Coast Guard members, Redshirts and Emblem Club members, law enforcement and city officials attended the solemn, sometimes tear-rendering Change of Command Retirement Ceremonies at the station in Harbor to honor the man who’s overseen the helm here for the past three years.
“People who serve with you are the most critical elements of your success,” said Capt. Mark Reynolds, commander of Coast Guard Sector North Bend. “OIC Janusch is one of them. He’s run an outstanding operation.”
Janusch was adorned with medals and presented accolades from Coast Guard officials and received a certificate of appreciation from President Barack Obama as Reynolds read the list of his accomplishments.
The Santa Fe, New Mexico, native graduated the DeVry Institute of Technology in 1980 and enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1984, going through basic training in Cape May, New Jersey. He graduated the Chief Petty Officer Academy in 1997 and earned his degree from Columbia College in 2006.
His assignments have included serving in the Presidential Honor Guard in Virginia; as surfman at Station Oregon Inlet in North Carolina, Bodega Bay in California, Grays Harbor in Washington; executive petty officer in San Diego; at the Rescue Coordination Center in Long Beach, California; and officer in charge in Bellingham, Washington, Mobile, Alabama, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, San Francisco, Humboldt Bay and Chetco River.
He also served as the command master chief in Alameda, California, DWO/LSO in Boston and the Operations Center supervisor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and in the Search and Rescue Detachment/Rogue River (district) in Harbor.
“That’s quite a career,” Reynolds said. “That’s a lot of dedicated service. What you do out here in the Coast Guard in the Pacific Northwest is hard work. There’s not a whole lot of margin for error.”
In those numerous capacities, Janusch was instrumental in overseeing 926 maritime law enforcement incidents, and 276 search and rescues that affected 626 people; he logged 275 underway hours in his tenure.
He also holds 10 Good Conduct Awards and received a Commendation Star.
Janusch, fighting back tears, credited his crew.
“There are not enough accolades to describe how without these guardians …” he paused, looking downward. “I said I wouldn’t cry. He set his jaw and looked up. “How without these guardians I would not have been successful as an OIC. I am humbled and lucky to have worked with these women and men.
“I thought I’d be used to leaving by now,” he added. “This one really hurts. It’s a permanent leave of absence.”
He and his wife, Michelle Meihsner, plan to retire in Humboldt County.
He thanked a long list of people prior to the formal retirement ceremonies in which the newest apprentice in the crew passes a folded American flag up the line of seniority to the highest in line: OIC Janusch.
McKay, as the OIC, brings with him experience having served first on the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute after graduation from Maritime Law Enforcement Boarding Officer School, then transferring to Station Siuslaw River in Florence where he certified as surfman.
In 1997, McKay reported to Yaquina Bay, Search and Rescue in Depoe Bay and completed his surfman certifications on 30- 47- and 52-foot motor life boats. In 2003, he assumed the executive petty officer of Station Southwest Harbor in Maine, then two OIC tours at Station Morro Bay California and Grand Haven, Michigan.
He has two Coast Guard commendation medals, seven Good Conduct Medals and holds the Ray Evans Outstanding Coxswain Award.
To McKay — the “new guy who brings a pretty good resume with him,” — Reynolds expressed his confidence.
“You know the surf; you know the job,” Reynolds said. “I am confident in your ability to lead the crew in the same quality manner Janusch has led them in the last three years. Having a duty to people and a commitment to excellence will serve you well.”
“Libby?” McKay called to his wife. “We’re starting over again. And boys?” he called to his three sons. “This is our new adventure.”
Janusch then requested his leave, and relinquished his authority to McKay.