His career in the Coast Guard has spanned Alaska, Woods Hole and Puerto Rico, along with several assignments at stations in New York. Between 2011 and 2014 he commanded Coast Guard Station Elizabeth City in North Carolina, his first command position.
Now Robert Riemer, the new senior chief for Coast Guard Station Menemsha, is getting to know his crew and looking forward to learning the ropes of Island life.
Despite the challenges of living on an Island year round, Martha’s Vineyard was at the top of Mr. Riemer’s list for new assignments.
“I was assigned in Woods Hole for about a year and a half, on the cutter Tybee, so I know the Cape and Islands,” he said in a recent interview. “We always wanted to get to the Vineyard and never seemed to put it together.”
He assumed command of station Menemsha on June 27, formally relieving Jason Olsen, who had served since 2010.
As senior chief, Mr. Riemer oversees all aspects of the station, and is responsible for the training and general well-being of the crew. Station Menemsha usually has around 22 members, from many different backgrounds.
“You get people from all over the country,” Mr. Riemer said. “We’ll get people from the Midwest that have never seen a big ship. We’ll get people who have never seen the ocean. The Coast Guard really does get a broad mix of people.”
Crew members have the chance to develop a wide range of skills over their four-year assignments, including in the areas of information technology, intelligence, boat maintenance and electrical work.
“On the Vineyard, you see the Coast Guard doing things like running search and rescue, running boats . . . but we have a pretty broad spectrum of specialties that people can work in,” he said.
He said the most rewarding part of his job is helping the people he works with succeed, both professionally and in community life.
In general, the Coast Guard tries “to be very closely connected to our communities, either through a partnership in education or participating in public affairs events like parades or open houses,” he said.
Over the July Fourth holiday weekend, Mr. Reiner was scheduled to move into his new home in Oak Bluffs with his wife and two daughters. One of the ongoing challenges for the Coast Guard here is finding adequate, affordable housing for crew members and their families. He said at least half the crew members are married or have children. The Coast Guard works with civil engineers to maintain Coast Guard housing, and with real estate brokers to obtain year-round leases for some members of the crew.
Mr. Riemer’s daughters will begin attending Island schools in the fall. At the moment, he said they were all “kind of living out of suitcases, waiting for the rest of our stuff to show up.”
He spent a week with Mr. Olsen, the outgoing chief, before taking over the station in June, so he was prepared for some of the challenges and opportunities ahead. He said Mr. Olsen “gave me a sense that the tempo of the Island as a whole changes greatly in the winter, and it’s going to be a challenge to keep the crew busy when they are off duty.”
For now, Mr. Riemer is focused on settling in, and getting acquainted with the crew, the local waters and the Island communities.
“There is a lot I don’t know, and I’m looking forward to figuring that out,” he said. “I look forward to getting to know this crew and helping them meet the challenges that we have as a team; working together and being successful together.”