BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Command of the Coast Guard station here was transferred from Jason B. Holm to Mark W. DiLenge yesterday as more than 100 service personnel and state and city officials observed the formal presentation at the riverfront station.
Holm, 38, is retiring from the Coast Guard after 20 years, He will take the position of deputy harbormaster in Chatham, and he said he will start there Monday.
DiLenge, 40, who was transferred from a station in Honolulu, said, “It’s known through our service that Newburyport is a great assignment to get.
“I had to compete for this position, and I am very glad that I was successful. I look forward to keeping up the close relationship between the city and the Coast Guard.”
DiLenge is a native of Boise, Idaho. He is a senior chief petty officer — as was Holm — and he enlisted in 1992.
Previous duties include officer in charge, Station Honolulu; officer in charge, Station Ketchikan, Alaska; senior duty officer and surfman, Station Siuslaw River, Ore.; crewmember, Omega Station, a radio transmission station in Lamoure, N.D.; and crewmember on the Dallas, based in New York harbor.
The station that he will supervise, located at 65 Water St., is composed of about 30 men and women, and possesses two 47-foot boats and one 25-foot (shallow-water) vessel.
The Coast Guard and its organizational predecessors have a long history in the community.
The service itself was founded in Newburyport in 1791, and was formalized in that distinction by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965.
The first station in the modern era, known as Plum Island Station, was built in 1873.
The current station on the riverfront was opened in August 1973.
One of the key roles of service personnel here is assisting boaters who are in distress. Service officials say local teams cover an area from Portsmouth, N.H., to about Rockport, and rescue teams travel up to 25 miles out to sea.
Coast Guard officials said that in Holm’s four years in command, there had been 350 search and rescue missions involving 696 lives. About $9 million in property was saved because of the rescue operations, according to Coast Guard estimates.
Because Holm is retiring from the service as well as leaving command, much of yesterday’s attention was focused on the soft-spoken Mobile native.
Capt. John C. O’Connor III, commander of Sector Boston, speaking during a segment of a ceremony to honor the departing leader, said, “Jason comes from a city near the Gulf of Mexico, and his family was made up of shipbuilders, shrimpers, oystermen and fishermen.
“His brother, Chad, was older and had been stationed in the Coast Guard at Destin, Fla., which is not far from Mobile. Chad encouraged Jason, and we have been fortunate to have him in our service.
“We wish him and his family the best of luck in the future.”
Holm credited the Coast Guard for helping him and his family in the past two decades.
“The Coast Guard took care of me until I could take care of myself,” said Holm, who entered the service after graduating from high school. “The service has been like a second family, and I value the mentors, colleagues and friends I have had.”
Holm, who was honored last year by the Newburyport Harbor Commission, also said, “I am pleased that Newburyport became a Coast Guard City while I was here.
“There are only 14 such cities in the country, and this is one community that has been very supportive of our service, We really appreciate the strong relationship that we have.”
Holm added, “I’m glad that my next job, in Chatham, will enable me to continue to work with the Coast Guard on coastal issues and rescue operations.”
Prior to coming to Newburyport, Holm had served at Station Destin (Fla.); Station Chatham; Station Provincetown: and at Kodiak, AK.
Among the honors he received yesterday was a proclamation of congratulations from President Obama.