Adm. Paul F. Zukunft assumed command as the 25th commandant of the Coast Guard last week, relieving Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr.
I have a few thoughts about this change of command. First, as a reporter, Zukunft is not the type of name that rolls off the tongue or the keyboard. It is far too easy to mispronounce or misspell. I think one of the qualifications the Coast Guard should demand for those looking to be the next commandant is that he or she has a last name like Smith or Jones or Papp. Throw us a bone, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Second, I’ve often heard people say “I wouldn’t want to be President of the United States. It’s a thankless job.” Well, I think the same thing about commandant of the Coast Guard. Think about it. The new commandant is heading up an agency that is underfunded, undermanned and underappreciated. It's fleet runs the gamut from state of the art to moth eaten. The underappreciated part is not totally true. When the agency performs acts of heroism during natural disasters, it gets three or four days of pats on the back from the national media, then it is once again forgotten, until it’s needed in another emergency. When the Coast Guard enforces its many regulations, the agency is often resented by both commercial vessel owners and recreational boat owners for doing so.
Third, the USCG’s own press release about the change of command includes the words, “relieving Adm. Bob Papp.” Relief is the word.
“To the men and women of the Coast Guard, I'm humbled to stand before you as your 25th Commandant," Zukunft said in the agency's release. "You embody the world's best Coast Guard."
About Adm. Papp, Zukunft said, “Adm. Papp’s leadership and resolve have left an indelible mark on the service. The Coast Guard is more proficient, more capable and more resilient due to his contributions and I wish him fair winds and following seas.”
And I wish the same to you, Admiral Zukunft. I have great respect for the USCG and the men and women that belong to the agency. That’s not to say I always agree with what the agency does or how it goes about doing it. Admiral, as a friend of mine in college use to say, “You’ve stepped in it now.”
So, watch your step and think about changing your name. We media-types would surely appreciate it.