Coast Guard Relieves Commander of Biggest Station for Failing to Act on Harassment Claims

U.S. Coast Guard boat escorts the USS Cole into the New York Harbor
A U.S. Coast Guard boat crew on a 29-foot response boat from Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team New York escorts the USS Cole into the New York Harbor during the parade of ships for New York Fleet Week on May 24, 2023. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John Hightower)

The Coast Guard has removed the commanding officer of its largest small boat station, Station New York.

The service announced Friday that it relieved Cmdr. David Ruhlig on June 3 "due to a loss of confidence in his ability to fulfill the expectations of his position." Ruhlig had commanded the unit for three years and was expected to turn the station over in September.

According to a Coast Guard press release, Rear Adm. John Mauger, the former commander of the First Coast Guard District who relinquished that position in May, recommended the relief for cause.

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Station New York, on Staten Island in New York City, is the largest and one of the busiest boat stations in the Coast Guard, conducting more than 3,800 hours a month in law enforcement and search and rescue operations. More than 140 active-duty and reserve personnel are assigned to it.

According to Coast Guard First District Public Affairs, an investigation showed that Ruhlig did not take steps to address allegations of harassment within his unit.

"The Coast Guard takes all reports of harassment seriously and is committed to providing all members with a safe and respectful environment to work. Therefore, Cmdr. Ruhlig was relieved of command and has been reassigned to Coast Guard Headquarters," First District spokeswoman Lt. Samantha Corcoran said in an email to

The firing is the fourth of a prominent Coast Guard leader in less than two months.

In April, Navy Capt. Daniel Mode, the chaplain of the Coast Guard, was relieved for failing to take action when he became aware of sexual misconduct by another chaplain that had taken place before the other chaplain joined the Navy and served in the Coast Guard.

In May, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Reserve Timothy Beard was relieved for inappropriate conduct.

And in late May, Navy Cmdr. Cristiano DeSousa, a Presbyterian chaplain, was relieved as chaplain of the 7th District for what a Coast Guard official described as "poor judgment and performance constituting a breach of trust with the workforce."

Before becoming station commander, Ruhlig served as an adviser to then-Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz and Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray on strategic communications with Congress, academia and federal agencies.

According to Ruhlig's LinkedIn page, he also was the service's lead analyst on diversity, inclusion and equity issues, responsible for developing the Coast Guard's plan to implement initiatives to retain women and minority service members.

Coast Guard leaders have been under intense scrutiny since last year, when a scandal erupted over a coverup of an investigation into multiple cases of sexual assault at the Coast Guard Academy dating back to the late 1980s.

None of the recent firings have been publicly linked by the Coast Guard to cover-up of the investigation, known as Operation Fouled Anchor. The only former Coast Guard leader who has experienced any consequences is retired Coast Guard Capt. Glenn Sulmasy, who resigned as president of Nichols College last year after he was accused of inappropriate communications with students while he was on the faculty at the academy a decade ago.

Shannon Norenberg, the Coast Guard Academy's official in charge of sexual assault response, tendered her resignation last Sunday, saying that she could no longer be part of service that led a concerted effort to cover up incidents of sexual assault.

In a public blog post, Norenberg, who had served in her position since 2013, said she participated in the Coast Guard's efforts to conduct outreach to victims, believing she was helping the investigation and assisting victims in receiving benefits, but later came to believe that the initiative was designed to mislead victims and quash publicity.

During a hearing earlier this week before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan said the service is waiting for a Department of Homeland Security inspector general investigation to conclude to determine whether actions need to be taken against anyone who was involved.

"As [the IG investigation] concludes, that will provide insights into whether non-criminal misconduct occurred or not, and then we'll work to create what accountability, transparency, what are the administrative tools there [are]," Fagan said.

Regarding Station New York, Lt. Cmdr. Robert Garris of the Coast Guard's Office of Boat Forces will temporarily lead the unit until September, when Lt. Cmdr. Craig Johnson will assume command.

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