It's been a big week for Coast Guard Cmdr. Thad Allen
, who is in charge of overseeing the federal response to the BP oil leak. This morning, he announced that BP's "top kill"
is working, halting the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico since last month's Deepwater Horizon explosion.
But earlier in the week, with far less media attention, Allen, 61, stepped down from his position as Commandant of the Coast Guard, the highest position in that branch of the military. He had plans to retire soon after being relieved of command, but was instead tapped to run the Obama administration's response to the environmental crisis instead.
And with good reason. Allen has played a major part in many of the nation's recent crises from September 11th to Hurricane Katrina. After Michael Brown was removed as head of FEMA, Allen ran the government's response team.
"He performed magnificently in a crisis," said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to USA Today
. "Nobody could have done it better."
Though he describes himself as an "unlikely admiral," Allen has spent 39 years in the Coast Guard. After graduating from the Coast Guard Academy in 1971, he earned Master's degrees from M.I.T. and George Washington University.
"He's just one of those guys," Adm. James M. Loy, a retired commandant, told the New York Times
. "If the challenge is to take the hill, you get behind him and take the hill."