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Wadena alum to retire after nearly 30 years in Coast Guard

Photo credit Petty Officer Christopher M. Yaw/ U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Steven Wischmann, formerly of Wadena, holds a flag that was presented to him during his retirement ceremony earlier this summer from the U.S. Coast Guard.

During his 29 years of service to the US Coast Guard, Captain Steven Wischmann has seen the branch come full circle: from a Cold War defense force primed to keep America's shores protected from a Soviet-led onslaught, to a guardian of the environment responding to disasters like the Exxon Valdez oil spill, back to a defense force against threats from abroad in the wake of 9/11. He's risen from the rank of petty officer working in Texas to become a captain in charge of Sector Buffalo, which extends throughout the northeastern part of the US from the border with Canada in upstate New York to Vermillion, Ohio- and he credits his upbringing in the landlocked town of Wadena with preparing him to achieve all that.

"I think being part of the community in Wadena was particularly special," Wischmann said. "I think it helped me become the person that I later... was as an adult. I think that small-town life was something that was stabilizing and reassuring."

Wischmann moved to Wadena from the Twin Cities when he young, and spent his formative years playing hockey at Wadena High School just as the program was getting started there. He graduated in 1979, and spent a couple of years in community college before entering the professional world as a commercial photographer

He joined the Coast Guard in 1984, initially thinking he would just do a short stint and then head back to Minnesota. At 23, Wischmann had enlisted relatively late in life compared to his fellow recruits, he said.

"I was an 'old' recruit," he said.

Wischmann found himself enjoying the challenge and discipline, so he decided to make a career out his service and signed up for Officer Candidate School. As he rose in rank his deployments shifted from

He said some of the highlights of his time in the service were the two Arctic deployments he undertook early in the career, his time as head of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Pittsburgh and his role as head of Sector Buffalo, which he fondly looks back on as "the best job in the Coast Guard".

A Coast Guard press release said some of Wischmann's many commendations include three Meritorious Service Medals, one Army Commendation Medal, the 9-11 Medal and two National Defense Service Medals. He also has a Bachelor's degree from the University of the State of New York and a Master's degree in Public Policy and Management from the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine, the release said.

Wischmann said he plans to spend more time with his family after his official Separation of Service comes Oct. 1, relaxing both at their home in Buffalo, N.Y. and their cabin on Otter Tail Lake in Minnesota. He also intends to keep working as he attempts to establish a consultant practice that will cover leadership, management and communications.