By Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON -- The brave men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard are America's first line of defense, President Donald J. Trump said at the Coast Guard’s change-of-command ceremony today.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft handed command to Adm. Karl L. Schultz at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters here.
“On behalf of the American people, I thank you for a lifetime of noble service. Congratulations on everything you have achieved,” Trump told Zukunft, who has 45 years of service.
Zukunft “has led every kind of mission and he has never backed down, ever, ever, ever,” Trump said, adding Zukunft “has lead with extraordinary skill and devotion and pride.”
During Zukunft’s tenure as Coast Guard commandant, “he poured his heart and soul into the service of our nation, and he brought remarkable vision to the task of ensuring the Coast Guard's rightful place at the forefront of American security and prosperity,” the president said.
“America is safe because our Coast Guard is strong,” Trump added.
The president called the Coast Guard the elite force that defends U.S. borders, patrols its waters, protects its cities and keeps its enemies at bay.
Zukunft sharpened the Coast Guard's focus on the Western Hemisphere, a crucial legacy that will endure, Trump said, noting there is greater emphasis on drug interdiction and the formation of historic partnerships to stop that “deadly poison” from reaching U.S. shores and destroying its youth and others.
Zukunft worked tirelessly to protect America's interest in the Arctic, the president said.
“[With our] new budget, $700 billion … this year, $716 billion next year … you're going to be very well taken care of,” Trump said, adding that the Coast Guard is on course to receive its “first new, heavy icebreaker in more than 40 years, and plenty other ships and boats and equipment and everything you need.”
The nation is committed to a military and security budget that funds and recognizes the Coast Guard's vital role, he said.
“There is no better investment than giving you the tools you need to keep drugs, criminals and terrorists out of our country,” the president said.
Zukunft also spearheaded a new and important Coast Guard cyber strategy, the president said. “And he was at the forefront,” Trump said of Zukunft. “He recognizes that we must harden our industry, ports and waterways against cyber intrusion.”
Coast Guard members help “secure our borders against traffickers, smugglers, criminals -- some of the worst people anywhere on earth. And we feel secure,” the president said.
And, through driving winds and pounding rain and thundering seas, the Coast Guard is always there, doing what it does best: saving lives, Trump said.
“In last year's historic hurricane season, our Coast Guard -- heroes they are -- saved almost 12,000 American lives in that short period. It's an unbelievable number,” he said.
Many service members left their homes and families to plunge out of helicopters, wade through perilous waters, care for the wounded and rescue the stranded, Trump said.
The president told Zukunft that his selfless courage has earned the gratitude of the nation. “With this ceremony, we proudly pass the helm of the United States Coast Guard to the man who oversaw those emergency operations: Admiral Karl Schultz,” the president said to applause.
As commander of the Coast Guard, Atlantic area, Schultz took responsibility for the Coast Guard response across the Gulf Coast, the Atlantic and the Caribbean, Trump said.
“I have complete confidence that Karl will carry out his new mission with the same talent, strength and devotion that have characterized his entire career,” the president said.
To new Coast Guard commandant Schultz, Trump said, “Karl, we congratulate you and we thank you for answering this call to service.”