Coast Guard Sector Honolulu held a change of command ceremony at Coast Guard Base Honolulu bidding farewell to Capt. Arex Avanni and welcoming Capt. Aja Kirksey, Tuesday.
The ceremony was presided over by Rear Adm. Michael Day, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Fourteenth District.
Kirksey, a native of New Iberia, Louisiana, was Chief of the Enlisted Advancement, Panels, and Separations Branch of the Personnel Service Center responsible for enlisted boards and panels, advancements, and personnel separation actions. Her operational assignments include serving as the enforcement division chief for Sector San Diego, where she oversaw all Coast Guard law enforcement operations for the greater San Diego area.
Kirksey served at Sector Hampton Roads as the command center supervisor, responsible for a crew executing over 1,000 cases per year to include search and rescue, law enforcement and environmental protection missions in Virginia and coastal Maryland. She also served on the Contingency Planning staff and acted as the assistant chief of the Incident Management Division at Sector San Francisco.
During this tour, she also served as deputy operations section chief for the motor vessel Cosco Busan pollution response. In this capacity, she managed over 1,500 response personnel and 40 surface assets during one of the most effective open water oil spill clean-up operations in Coast Guard history.
Kirkey’s education includes a master’s degree in Quality Systems Management from the National Graduate School at New England Institute of Business and she is a 2001 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy where she earned a bachelor of science in Marine Environmental Sciences.
Prior to assuming command of Coast Guard Sector Honolulu in May 2019, Avanni’s career includes serving as a senior advisor to the Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security where he advised the Deputy Secretary of department-wide unity of effort initiatives, including the maturation of DHS policies and procedures and the effective employment of the Department’s Joint Task Forces.
Avanni also served as the deputy sector commander of Sector Honolulu, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Gulf Strike Team, deck watch officer aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau, marine inspector and federal on-scene coordinator representative at the Marine Safety Office in Morgan City, Louisiana, chief of Sector San Francisco’s Command Center and then as its chief of incident management. In the spring of 2019, Avanni was selected as the US Coast Guard’s Federal executive fellow at The Brookings Institution, one of the world’s top ranked think tanks located in Washington, DC.
As a 1994 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Avanni’s education includes a bachelor’s degree in Science in Management and a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the United States Naval War College.
Coast Guard Sector Honolulu serves a broad expanse of the Pacific that includes 200 nautical miles surrounding the State of Hawaii, the islands and atolls of the Hawaiian Island Chain, American Samoa, Wake Island, Midway Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, Jarvis Island, Baker Island, and Howland Island. Sector Honolulu is responsible for conducting various Coast Guard missions in their area of operation including search and rescue, coastal security, waterway management, aids to navigation, marine safety, law enforcement, defense readiness, marine environmental protection and drug interdiction.