Captain Poehler Changes Command


Sydney Wozniczka

Mr. Poehler at the Veterans Day assembly

Lauren Kalina, Editor-in-Chief

Not long before the nation honored its service members on Veterans Day, one of Eagan High School’s own veterans took a major step. Mr. Poehler, a captain in the Navy, underwent a change of command. Change of command is a military ceremony in which a commanding officer transfers authority over their unit to a new officer. The event represents a peaceful transfer of power when the commander’s tour is done. Captain Poehler, as the commanding officer of a unit in Chicago, turned over responsibility for the unit and the allegiance of his sailors to his successive officer.

Poehler joined the Navy in February 1988, during the Cold War. His father was in the Air Force, so he “had a sense that [he] wanted to serve.” He jokes, “My father-in-law was in the Navy, so in order for me to marry his daughter I had to join the Navy. He did the same as me, he’s a retired captain, and I’m a captain now.” Poehler found a program that he was interested in, got his commission, and has been in the reserves for 29 years since.

Poehler says that travel is one of the highlights of this experience in the Navy. “Some of my units were in Hawaii; for this past one I’ve gone to England, I loved that; I’ve gone to Germany.” But his favorite thing about his work? “It’s my job to help people, help their personal development. Sometimes that means I have to discipline, that’s part of being a commanding officer, but I’ve been able to help people achieve, I’ve been able to get people awarded.” The captain humbly mentions an award his unit won, attributing the achievement to his sailors, not him as their leader. “It really recognizes my folks. I’m very proud of them, [they’re] outstanding professionals.”

However, Poehler’s tour as commanding officer recently came to an end with his change of command. In the Navy, the ceremony is steeped in tradition. Poehler’s entire unit dressed in formal uniform for the event. Poehler, as the incumbent officer, said to the new officer, “Sir, I am ready to be relieved.” “I relieve you,” the new commander responded. “I am relieved,” repeated Poehler.

“It was very fun,” Poehler said of the ceremony. However, he adds, “It was hard for me because it’s my last year. I had three CO tours, almost a third of my career has been spent in command. So it was hard.” The captain had trouble leaving “fantastic people, who have a fantastic mission.” Ending a chapter in his career was especially difficult. “It went so well, I had such a great tour, but it was hard to recognize that I’m kind of done.”

For the next 15 months, Poehler will work as a Navy analyst instead of a commanding officer, which means he won’t have to expend time managing 170 sailors anymore. “My AP students will appreciate that I can catch up on doing their essays!” he laughs. “I’ve loved what I’ve done, but I’m excited to maybe try some other things, like volunteering, or reading history, or who knows what.”

Poehler wants students at EHS to know that he’s available if they want to discuss military service. “If anybody’s ever interested, thinking about the military or whatever, I’d be glad to have them come see me.” He’s more than willing to help examine the options and maybe even point out unseen opportunities.

In conclusion, Poehler adds a note of appreciation for his students. “There’s a certain amount of sacrifice, not only for my family, but with the reserves and teaching, for the students as well.” He cites his trip to England in the spring of last year and describes how his classes kept working and followed the lesson plan on their own. “Some kind of discount it, but that’s service too, you know? It’s everybody doing their part. So I’m proud of you guys, you kept the ball moving!”

Congratulations to Captain Poehler for his illustrious career and all the hard work and integrity he’s shown along the way.

Captain Poehler's unit in formal dress
Captain Poehler’s unit in formal dress