At the Coast Guard boathouse in Menemsha, Fourth of July weekend started off with two causes for celebration: the retirement of Master Chief Justin Longval and the elevation of Senior Chief Steven White to replace him as the officer in charge.

Master Chief Longval retires after 26 years in the Coast Guard, the last four of which have been spent as the head of Station Menemsha. Last year he moved up to the master chief petty officer, the highest rank for an enlisted member. Senior Chief White, who has been stationed in Menemsha for the last three years, will take the helm for a year before moving on to his next assignment.

“I could not be turning over the station to better hands than with Senior Chief White,” Master Chief Longval said.

Commander Paul Mangini acknowledges Master Chief Justin Longval who is retiring after 26 years with the Coast Guard. — Ray Ewing

The ornate ceremony was filled with tears and gratitude as friends, family and fellow coast guardsmen came together to celebrate the two men. Dressed in polished black leather shoes, sharply creased navy blue slacks, baby blue shirts and white Coast Guard caps, both men received commendations for their service. Commander Paul Mangini, the deputy commander for the southeastern New England region, presided over the ceremony.

“Master Chief Longval, thank you for your unwavering commitment to the mission, success and your impressive leadership of this crew,” Commander Mangini said. “Senior Chief White…I know you stand ready for the challenges of command.”

In keeping with tradition, the change of command ceremony started off with a final crew inspection. Master Chief Longval wove his way through the three rows of officers, shaking hands and sharing smiles one last time.

While at Station Menemsha, Master Chief Longval oversaw 90 search and rescues, an update to the emergency response plan with the Steamship Authority and created an incentive pay plan to help officers afford to live on-Island, Commander Mangini said.

Community turned out to witness the event. — Ray Ewing

“During my tenure I’ve been extremely fortunate to have an amazing team,” Master Chief Longval said. “The relationships we forged, the milestones that we have accomplished and most of all the culture we created has been remarkable.”

A series of handshakes and salutes between Commander Mangini, Senior Chief White and Master Chief Longval marked the official change of command.

Senior Chief White takes the helm after earning several awards throughout his career. A member of the Coast Guard since 2007, he has been stationed in Maine, North Carolina and Hawaii before coming to the Island with his wife Ariel and children Sylas and Phoenix. He took a moment to thank his family, fellow coast guardsmen and Master Chief Longval for helping him to get to this point in his career.

“As I look at the audience, there are so many people that contributed either in a large or small way to this point,” he said. “To the crew of Station Menemsha, thank you for everything you do on a daily basis. It’s been an honor working with you over the past three years, and I look forward to the next year together.”

Where it begins and ends. — Ray Ewing

The ceremony concluded with a chain of officers meticulously passing a triangle-shaped American flag between one another as America, the Beautiful played softly in the background. The chain ended with Master Chief Longval, who will keep the flag as a token for his service.

“The lessons I learned through the Coast Guard will continue to pave the way for other successes,” he said. “Thank you guys so much for coming and enjoy this beautiful weekend.”