New commander at helm of Coast Guard Sector Honolulu

Capt. Arex Avanni (left), commander, Sector Honolulu, relieved Capt. Michael Long (right) during a change of command ceremony presided over by Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday (center) at Base Honolulu, May 24, 2019. Long will continue his career as the Coast Guard's liaison to Indo-Pacific Command. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West/Released

Capt. Arex Avanni (left), commander, Sector Honolulu, relieved Capt. Michael Long (right) during a change of command ceremony presided over by Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday (center) at Base Honolulu, May 24, 2019.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West/Released

HONOLULU — The Coast Guard welcomed a new commander at Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, Friday, as Capt. Arex Avanni assumed command from Capt. Michael Long.

Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, commander Coast Guard 14th District, presided over the change of command ceremony. A change of command is a military tradition that represents a formal transfer of authority and responsibility for a unit from one commanding or flag officer to another.

Avanni is arriving from Washington D.C. where he served as the senior advisor to the deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with responsibility for managing day-to-day operations for the department which has over 208,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $48.5 billion. Before that assignment, he was the Coast Guard’s federal executive fellow at the Brookings Institute, a top-rated think tank in Washington D.C.

Avanni’s previous assignments include a tour as deputy sector commander, Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, commanding officer of the Gulf Strike Team and deck watch officer aboard Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau. He was also a marine inspector and federal on-scene coordinator for Marine Safety Office Morgan City, Louisiana, and chief of the sector command center and then chief of incident management at Coast Guard Sector San Fransisco.

He is a 1994 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy achieving a Bachelor of Science in management. He also holds a Master’s degree in national security and strategic studies with an emphasis in asymmetric warfare from the U.S. Naval War College. Most recently, we received a graduate certificate in public leadership at Brookings.

Long took over Coast Guard Sector Honolulu in 2016 and oversaw operations throughout the main Hawaiian Islands and American Samoa as the commander and captain of the port. During this time he led the sector forces response to multiple events including the loss of several military aircraft, environmental disasters resulting from tropical cyclones and volcanic activity across the region, and the groundings of the commercial fishing vessels Pacific Paradise on Oahu and Chui Zai Fa No. 1 in American Samoa. His team also contributed to District and Department of Justice efforts to prosecute multiple paper captains and environmental crimes by the crews on commercial vessels leading to more than $10 million in fines and nearly $2 million for environmental remediation.

He is departing to U.S. Indo Pacific Command to serve as Coast Guard liaison there. It is a unified combatant command of the United States Armed Forces responsible for the Indo-Pacific region and is the oldest and largest of the unified combatant commands. Its commander, the senior U.S. military officer in the Pacific, is responsible for military operations in an area which encompasses more than 100 million square miles, or roughly 52 percent of the Earth’s surface, stretching from the waters off the West Coast of the United States to the west coast of India, and from the Arctic to the Antarctic. They are also responsible for protecting against an invasion of the United States through the state of Hawaii. The Coast Guard works closely with U.S. Indo Pacific Command daily to ensure a free and open Indo Pacific and the support of strategic regional partners.

Sector Honolulu personnel conduct search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, natural resource protection and marine safety enforcing federal law throughout the main Hawaiian Islands and American Samoa. Always prepared, 24/7, the Coast Guard protects the maritime economy and the environment, defends our maritime borders, and saves those in peril.

As sector commander, Avanni, like Long before him, has a wide range of authorities and responsibilities under federal law, wearing several hats as a captain of the port; federal on-scene coordinator; federal maritime security coordinator; officer in charge, marine inspections (OCMI); and search and rescue mission coordinator. These roles manifest in the actions of directing searches, holding vessels to the dock until issues are corrected as well as working with the Hawaii DOT and port partners in Hawaii and American Samoa to close and open the ports during periods of severe weather to safeguard vital maritime infrastructure and protect the lives of mariners to name a few.

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