Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire
Rear Adm. Nathan A. Moore, new commander for Coast Guard District 17, holds a fortune from a fortune cookie that reads “Blessed is that man who has found his work.” Moore said he received the fortune on his first day in Juneau and he found it fitting as he was poised to take his new post.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire Rear Adm. Nathan A. Moore, new commander for Coast Guard District 17, holds a fortune from a fortune cookie that reads “Blessed is that man who has found his work.” Moore said he received the fortune on his first day in Juneau and he found it fitting as he was poised to take his new post.

‘You’ve got the helm’: District 17 changes command

New commander says he has found his work.

Thanks to increasing global interest in the Arctic, Alaska’s state motto “North to the Future,” has never been more relevant, said Vice Adm. Linda L. Fagan, U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area commander, during a Coast Guard District 17 Change of Command Ceremony on Friday.

Rear Adm. Nathan A. Moore, who took command of the Coast Guard district encompassing over 3,853,500 square miles and more than 47,300 miles of shoreline, will be part of that future.

“There’s really no place I’d rather be, and that’s the truth,” Moore said during brief remarks at a ceremony attended by about 30 at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center and watched via livestream by over 300. He joked that based on past Change of Command ceremonies he’s been involved with, the incoming commander’s remarks should be an introduction, a conclusion and “really not much of anything in between.”

Moore’s past assignments, according to information provided at the ceremony, include serving as a student engineer aboard USCGC Polar Star, an engineering officer aboard USCGC Harriet Lane, executive officer of USCGC Venturous, commanding officer aboard USCGC Resolute and commanding officer of USCGC Stratton.

[Coast Guard District 17 CO looks back on decades of service]

He previously assumed duties as assistant commandant for engineering and logistics in July 2019, a position in which he served as the Coast Guard’s “chief engineer.” He also served as deputy commander and chief of staff for the Coast Guard Pacific Area beginning in 2017.

Fagan joked that behind Moore’s mask he had the smile of a man escaping Washington, D.C. She also earnestly praised the new District 17 commander.

“I am thrilled that Nate is coming back into the Pac Area team,” Fagan said. “He’s a genuine leader. He really appreciates the values of every member of the team.”

Moore said his time in Juneau got off to a serendipitous start when he received an extremely fitting fortune in a fortune cookie following lunch his first day in town.

The fortune read “Blessed is that man who has found his work,” which Moore produced from his pocket during his remarks.

“It was certainly exquisite timing,” Moore said. “That’s how I knew I was here and had a job to do in the next couple of years.”

Now-retired Rear Adm. Matthew T. Bell Jr., previous District 17 commander, said District 17 is both the most demanding and rewarding assignment possible.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire
Lt. Preston Strobel, retired Rear Adm. Matthew T. Bell Jr., and Master Chief Corey Sidlo stand with a paddle made by local artist Nick Vonda III during a Coast Guard District 17 Change of Command Ceremony. Rob Edwardson, D17 tribal liaison, who helped present the paddle said he hoped it would be viewed as something that pushes people together across the oceans that connect them.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire Lt. Preston Strobel, retired Rear Adm. Matthew T. Bell Jr., and Master Chief Corey Sidlo stand with a paddle made by local artist Nick Vonda III during a Coast Guard District 17 Change of Command Ceremony. Rob Edwardson, D17 tribal liaison, who helped present the paddle said he hoped it would be viewed as something that pushes people together across the oceans that connect them.

Bell spoke near the end of the atypical ceremony, which doubled as a retirement ceremony and included a singalong of happy birthday for Bell’s wife, Nancy.

Throughout the ceremony, there were uniformly glowing assessments of Bell, his 36-year Coast Guard career and his work as District 17 commander in both responding to challenges and thinking ahead. Bell’s three years as commander were marked by a 2018 earthquake that rocked Anchorage, a partial government shutdown in 2019 and a pandemic-altered 2020.

Adm. Karl L. Schultz, Coast Guard commandant, said it was a testament to the work Bell’s done in the state that the ceremony was attended by U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Bell in turn thanked the Alaska congressional delegation for its steadfast support of the Coast Guard.

Schultz said if he were to boil down Bell to three key traits or attributes, it would be competence, consistency and passion.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire 
Adm. Karl L. Schultz, U.S. Coast Guard commandant, listens to a speaker during a Coast Guard District 17 Change of Command ceremony. The ceremony conformed to many traditions, but masks, a livestream and capped attendance were among measures in place to reduce risk of COVID-19 spread.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire Adm. Karl L. Schultz, U.S. Coast Guard commandant, listens to a speaker during a Coast Guard District 17 Change of Command ceremony. The ceremony conformed to many traditions, but masks, a livestream and capped attendance were among measures in place to reduce risk of COVID-19 spread.

He praised Bell’s smarts, sense of fairness and his dedication to forging partnerships at the local, national and international levels among other qualities.

“You really gotta think big in Alaska,” Schultz said. “I think Matt has thought big.”

Bell spoke with love and enthusiasm for the people with whom he served and the state of Alaska, where he will continue to live following his retirement.

He, and several of the ceremony’s speakers, noted the beauty of the robin’s-egg sky, Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls visible through the visitor center’s windows.

“It’s easy to get excited and easy to get passionate about this great land,” Bell said. “Every day is a beautiful day in Alaska.”

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire 
Elected officials including Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, all Alaska Republicans, were present for U.S. Coast Guard District 17’s Change of Command Friday in the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire Elected officials including Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, all Alaska Republicans, were present for U.S. Coast Guard District 17’s Change of Command Friday in the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

Additionally, Bell spoke with excitement about the “incredibly bright” future of Coast Guard in general and in particular the role the branch will play in Alaska.

He advised Moore to focus on the people and partnerships and be willing to challenge the norms.

“Rear Adm. Moore, you’ve got the helm,” Bell said.

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt

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