TRAVERSE CITY — Coast Guard Cmdr. Joseph Buzzella Jr. described a symbiotic relationship between his guardsmen and the greater Traverse City community as he prepared to surrender the command he has held since 2011.
“Without the support and service this community overwhelmingly provides, this air station would not be able to maintain the highest level of readiness, and we are ready,” Buzzella said. “We are ready for the call.”
The “coasties” of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Traverse City Air Station, in turn, don’t hesitate to help the citizens of the Great Lakes when they are in distress on the water and need help most, Buzzella said.
Buzzella delivered his words during an emotional change of command ceremony Friday morning. Hundreds of citizens, veterans, community leaders and politicians filled a hanger on the air base and watched Coast Guard Cmdr. Sean Cross relieve Buzzella of his duties.
Buzzella, fighting back tears, thanked countless fellow officers, the station’s enlisted personnel, community members and his own family.
He highlighted many of the base’s accomplishments during his two-year tenure, including a daring rescue last year of two 14-year-old girls stranded in 50-degree water off the coast of Illinois who were plucked from the water with only minutes to live. Buzzella also talked about how personal encounters with Traverse City residents changed his own life for the better.
“I had no idea how much living here would change me,” he said.
Buzzella, after sharing his thank yous and reflections, turned to Cross. The two officers formally changed command while standing in front of an immense American flag, two helicopters and the station’s Falcon jet airplane.
Cross underlined his own brief comments with a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it will never forget what they did here,” Cross said.
Similarly, few people will remember the words exchanged during the change of guard ceremony, but every man, woman and child who is saved from peril by members of the Coast Guard will long remember that moment, Cross said.
Cross graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1994 with a degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. Starting in 2010 he served as executive officer at Air Station Elizabeth City, in North Carolina.
Buzella plans to attend Washington D.C.’s National War College, where he will spend a year studying national security strategies.
After the ceremony, Buzella said he and his wife recently purchased a home on Traverse City’s East Bay. He said his family will return here every year.
“You can count on it,” Buzzella said.
Air Station Traverse City was first commissioned in 1946. Since then it has grown to house 24 officers, two warrant officers, one public health service officer and 105 enlisted personnel.