Justin Irwin is not quite sure how they do it up in Wisconsin.
But the region’s U.S. Coast Guard operations on Lake Michigan will have a decidedly coastal Georgia flair if he has anything to say about it. And the four-year commander at Coast Guard Station Brunswick will have something to say about it.
The next stop for this 20-year veteran is Coast Guard Station Sheboygan. But after dealing with three hurricanes, a couple of tropical storms and, oh yeah, the most expensive shipwreck in U.S. history, Irwin will bring some valuable lessons from the Golden Isles to his new command on Lake Michigan. Throughout it all, he has been able to count on the support of the community like nowhere else he has served in his many years of service, Irwin said.
“This community is by far the most tight-knit community I have worked with in 20 years,” said Irwin, heaping particular praise on Coast Guard Station Brunswick’s Auxiliary Flotilla 10-10. “We all came together as a team. When I get to Wisconsin, I’m going to tell ‘em how Glynn County does it. They’re either going to get on board or else.”
Irwin handed command over to Senior Chief Petty Officer Clint S. Spivey. Originally from Dublin, Spivey is no stranger to Coast Guard Station Brunswick. He served here as executive petty officer in 2017.
“I thank God for giving me this opportunity and leading my path back here,” Spivey said. “I just want to applaud Station Brunswick for your dedication over the last four years. Everyone here has certainly proven themselves. I look forward to serving here.”
Spivey joined the Coast Guard in 2001 and is a graduate of the Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Academy. He has served aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Resolute, and the cutters Nantucket and Vigilant. He has been awarded two Coast Guard Commendation medals, three Coast Guard Achievement Medals and numerous other citations.
Prior to the change of command ceremony, eight members of Coast Guard Station Brunswick were recognized for their roles in the rescue of the 24 crew members aboard the Golden Ray when it capsized in the St. Simons Sound on Sept. 8, 2019. Ceremony speaker Capt. John D. Cole, commander of Coast Guard Sector Charleston, credited Irwin’s leadership with the success of those rescue efforts.
“That dark morning would have been very different without the leadership of Commander Irwin and the crew under his command,” Cole told the small gathering, which included Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey and acting Glynn County Police Chief Jay Wiggins.
During Irwin’s command, Coast Guard Station Brunswick took part in more than 200 search and rescue cases and completed some 700 law enforcement actions, Cole said. That is not to mention its responses to hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Dorian, among others, Cole noted.
“Through this all of you were helped and guided along the way by Senior Chief Irwin,” he said. “He’s a great guy, a great leader and a great family man.”
Irwin said it was a privilege to command the crew at Station Brunswick.
“Four years just flew by,” Irwin said. “The days were pretty slow, but the months and years flew by. I couldn’t have picked a better team to serve with.”