Tahoe Coast Guard changes command | SierraSun.com

Tahoe Coast Guard changes command

Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunSenior Chief Boatswains Mate Daniel Bennett and Chief Boatswains Mate Raymond Holcombe salute as the changing of the guard takes place at the Coast Guard Station in Tahoe City on Friday.

Ray Holcombe has been the Officer in Charge of U.S. Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe for the last four years and has overseen more than 750 search and rescues that saved an estimated 200 lives and over $1 million in property.

But his hitch at Lake Tahoe has come to an end.

In a Change of Command ceremony Friday at the Coast Guard station in Tahoe City, friends, family and colleagues bid farewell to Chief Boatswain Mate Ray Holcombe and welcomed Senior Chief Boatswain Mate Daniel Bennett as the high-altitude station’s new Officer in Charge.

“[This has been] the most rewarding tour in my Coast Guard career,” Holcombe said at the ceremony. “It’s been my honor and privilege to serve you as Officer in Charge.”

Holcombe, noted for his forward thinking, thorough knowledge of Lake Tahoe’s geography and currents ” and for his love of golf and softball ” will be sorely missed by his staff, the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the friends he’s made as he moves on to work briefly at Sector San Francisco before returning to Lake Tahoe to be with his wife and son.

Bennett, whose last posting was at Brookings, Ore., has big shoes to fill with Holcombe’s departure, but said he looks forward to his time at Station Lake Tahoe.

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“[I want] to continue what Chief Holcombe did in maintaining relationships with the community and other agencies,” said Bennett.

Because inter-agency cooperation is key in a body of water that covers two states and five counties, several El Dorado and Placer sheriff’s deputies and South Lake Tahoe police officers attended the traditional naval ceremony.

“We came out for Chief Holcombe ” he’s great,” said City of South Lake Tahoe police Officer Steve O’Brien. “He’s been instrumental in searches and life-saving ventures.”

Holcombe and his Coast Guard crew have assisted on hundreds of cases, including the South Shore man who died earlier this year while sailing and the North Tahoe woman who was found near-hypothermic while kayaking in January.

Holcombe also helped lead more than a dozen Lake Tahoe agencies in a disaster response drill this winter.

“[Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe] is essentially our command post. They assign us responsibilities on the lake … It’s a great cooperation,” O’Brien said.

The primary focus of the United States Coast Guard ” which turns 217 years old this year ” is in search and rescue, law enforcement, homeland defense and boating safety. The Lake Tahoe station is just one of seven stations within Sector San Francisco.

The Coast Guard’s biggest concerns here include reckless driving, alcohol-related accidents, water temperatures and ill-prepared boaters. At 6,223 feet, Lake Tahoe is at a higher elevation than other inland waterways the Coast Guard patrols, which makes for a short season, frigid water and sometimes-severe weather conditions.

Alongside Hawaii, Station Lake Tahoe is one of the most requested Coast Guard assignments. Working here as the Officer in Charge is a particular privilege.

“The officer is no longer an individual but represents the command itself,” said Captain William Uberti, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Francisco.

“It’s quite an honor to command this station,” he said.