By the time Thad W. Allen was halfway through his four-year term as Commandant of the Coast Guard, the consensus was that he'd be a tough act to follow.
The charismatic, blunt-spoken admiral, who became a national hero by bailing out the government's foundering rescue-and-recovery effort after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, launched the service's most sweeping restructuring since before World War II. He dealt swiftly-and competently-with a major brouhaha involving the Coast Guard's multi-billion-dollar Deepwater shipbuilding program. He bolstered the service's maritime regulatory and safety activities to overcome congressional complaints. And he reached out to active-duty personnel as no Coast Guard leader had done before, using Facebook and other social media to keep in touch with the rank-and-file. He formally retired in June, and has been heading the oil-spill containment effort in the Gulf of Mexico.