Commander Leon McClain, Jr. reported to Marine Safety Unit Pittsburgh in July 2015 assuming the duties of Captain of the Port, Officer-in-Charge of Marine Inspection, Federal Maritime Security Coordinator, and Federal On-Scene Coordinator. The unit is comprised of 54 Active Duty, Reserve, and Civilian personnel and executes Coast Guard Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security; Law Enforcement; Waterways Management; Marine Safety; and Marine Environmental Protection missions in Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, and Northern West Virginia. Prior to this assignment, Commander McClain served as a Marine Safety Assignment Officer at the Coast Guard Personnel Service Center’s Officer Personnel Management Division in Arlington, Virginia. He was responsible for the worldwide assignment of Prevention specialty officers, managing both the senior (O-5/O-4) and junior (O-3 to O-1) accounts, which ensured proper development and staffing for mission execution throughout the Coast Guard from 2013-2015.
He enlisted in the Coast Guard in June 1996 after selection to the Coast Guard’s Minority Officer Recruitment Effort (M.O.R.E.) Scholarship Program, now called the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI) Scholarship. Upon completion of boot camp at Training Center Cape May, New Jersey as a member of Golf Company-149, he was assigned as an Officer Trainee and part-time Recruiter at Recruiting Office New Orleans while returning to Xavier University of Louisiana (New Orleans) to complete his undergraduate studies where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology, with a minor in Chemistry in May 1998. Later that year in December 1998, he graduated from Officer Candidate School (OCS) in New London, Connecticut as a member of OCS Class 1-99. In his first assignment after OCS, CDR McClain reported to Coast Guard Headquarters Office of Response, Planning and Preparedness Division (G-MOR-2) in January 1999 to serve as Assistant Chief of the Vessel Response Plans (VRP) Program in which he was the assistant manager for the $1.2 million domestic and international vessel pollution response plan initiative mandated by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and served as the Coast Guard’s Liaison to the HAZMAT 2000 Spills Prevention Conference.
In June 2000, CDR McClain transferred to Marine Safety Office Houston-Galveston where he served as a four-year Command Duty Officer, an Investigating Officer, Chief of Marine Environmental Protection, and Chief of Contingency Planning/Readiness. As Chief of Contingency Planning/Readiness, he led the development and completion of Houston-Galveston’s first MTSA Area Maritime Security Plan, as well as designed and planned a regional MARSEC 3 full-scale exercise designed to activate the Port Coordination Team at five Port Command Centers to test interoperability and flow of communications between the Federal Maritime Security Coordinator and federal, state, and local stakeholders. After gaining valuable experience from the Gulf Coast in 2004, CDR McClain was assigned to Marine Safety Office Memphis as Chief of the Port Operations Department which comprised responsibilities for Response and Prevention missions in a five-state Area Of Responsibility including Port Security, Waterways Safety & Management, Marine Investigations, Maritime Facility Safety and Security, Small Boat Operations, Merchant Vessel Safety and Security, and Federal On Scene Coordinator’s Representative for oil and hazardous materials incidents. CDR McClain was selected to be the Chief of Marine Inspections and Investigations for the newly formed Sector Lower Mississippi River in June 2005 and served in that capacity until July 2008.
From 2008 – 2010, Commander McClain was a Coast Guard Liaison Officer detailed to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Headquarters Policy Directorate. In this capacity, he worked as a Program Analyst in the Office of Strategic Plans (OSP) whereby his responsibilities included facilitating partnerships to synchronize OSP with high-level Departmental initiatives; serving as Policy’s lead for the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) Strategic Management Study Analytic Agenda Workgroup charged with examining current DHS practices and alternatives, determining capability shortfalls, and providing key recommendations to senior leadership; and managing component portfolios as a Planning, Programming, Budgeting & Execution Interface Group staffer to provide analysis of major DHS acquisition programs with national level implications.
Commander McClain served as the Executive Officer of Marine Safety Unit Lake Charles from 2010-2013. As Executive Officer, his responsibilities included overseeing maritime law enforcement, marine environmental protection, marine investigations, port safety and security, and commercial vessel inspections throughout an area of responsibility spanning 8,400 square miles in Southwest Louisiana inclusive of the Port of Lake Charles, the 11th busiest US bulk tonnage port, with 450 miles of inland waterways, 90 miles of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and the entire Calcasieu Ship Channel through the Contiguous Zone offshore.
A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he earned a Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management from Webster University in 2007 and an Executive Certificate in Leadership and Management from the University of Notre Dame in 2013. His military decorations include one Meritorious Service Medal, three Coast Guard Commendation Medals, two Coast Guard Achievement Medals, three Commandant’s Letter of Commendation Ribbons, and various team and unit awards.
Commander McClain’s initial exposure to the Coast Guard Auxiliary occurred in the 1990s while being attached to the Coast Guard Recruiting Office in New Orleans. He has great memories of working with a pleasant older gentleman named Mr. Howard Kavanaugh, attending career fairs and conducting various other recruiting initiatives. He recalls his last time seeing Mr. Kavanaugh in 1998 during his final week at the recruiting office, just prior to departing for Officer Candidate School. Although each of the operational units he has been assigned to have had Auxiliary Flotillas, he feels the Pittsburgh region, Division 7 – District 8 Eastern Region, has been by far, the most active and vibrant he’s seen. “Division 7 continues to demonstrate the many ways to get involved. When you think about it, the Auxiliary as a whole brings significant diversity to the table; different ethnicities, backgrounds, personal and professional experiences, and viewpoints. That diversity is significant in facilitating problem analysis and well-thought out decision making” says Commander McClain. “We simply could not fulfill our safety, security, and stewardship missions without the support of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.” Similar to the Active Duty and Reserve components, he feels it is critical for the Coast Guard Auxiliary to continue recruiting caring individuals who possess high moral character, strong people skills, and an innate desire to excel and make a difference.