Incoming Cmdr. Luis Carmona salutes outgoing Cmdr. Mark Sawyer as Capt. Michael Zamperini looks on during July 13 change-of-command ceremony. (photo by Jeff L. Yates)
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MSU-Paducah Has New Commander

Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit-Paducah is now under the command of Cmdr. Luis Carmona, who assumed the helm from Cmdr. Mark Sawyer in a traditional change of command ceremony conducted at the Seamen’s Church Institute July 13.

Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Weiser, executive officer of the unit, served as master of ceremonies and Lt. Mark A. Miller, U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps, offered the opening and closing prayers.

The Paducah Marine Safety Unit, known as the Marine Safety Office prior to 2005, is the busiest of all five Coast Guard facilities operating within the Coast Guard’s Sector Ohio Valley, according to Capt. Michael B. Zamperini, who presided over the formal ceremony. The Paducah unit’s area of responsibility covers the most expansive and complex waterway systems in the country. Located at or near the convergence of five major rivers, it is responsible for facilitating nearly 300 million tons of cargo through more than 500 miles of navigable channels, five locks and dams, and the ongoing construction at the Olmsted Locks and Dam project. Adding to the plethora of challenges are constantly changing river levels that can fluctuate as much as 40 feet and the responsibility to oversee safe boating conditions and coordinate search and rescue operations on the largest navigable lakes east of the Mississippi River.

The Paducah unit is staffed by 44 active duty personnel, four civilians, 28 reservists and more than 90 auxiliarists among three flotillas in the surrounding recreational boating area. All together, these members responded to 13 significant waterways related events, four hurricanes and 26 marine events under Sawyer’s command.

Zamperini said during Sawyer’s tour of duty, the Paducah Marine Safety Unit was involved with 178 groundings, 104 allisions/collisions, 13 floodings or sinkings, 136 equipment failures, 55 personnel casualties, 74 pollution incidents and 273 facility inspections. The unit monitored 27 cargo transfer operations and conducted 972 vessel inspections along with 116 uninspected towing vessel exams and 832 boardings. It also participated in five Western Rivers flood punt deployments and nine search-and-rescue cases.

Sawyer will be reporting to Norfolk, Va., to begin his new assignment as Coast Guard Liaison Officer working with the United States Navy Military Sealift Command.

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