John Currier had planned to retire about this time, but he agreed to put off settling into a house overlooking Lake Michigan for a couple of years to serve as the second-ranking official in the Coast Guard.

Currier, a vice admiral who is a native of Westbrook, is being installed today as vice commandant of the service that he joined in 1976. The ceremony will be held at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C.

Currier said he enjoys the challenge of a new job — which involves the operations, strategic development, organization and management of the service’s 57,000 employees — but he really misses what brought him to the Coast Guard in the first place.

“My true love was flying rescue helicopters,” which often brought him to the coast of his home state from the first base where he was stationed, Air Station Cape Cod in Massachusetts. “I used to volunteer for the Maine flights all the time,” he said.

Entering the Coast Guard was never on his mind while he was growing up in Westbrook and attending Cheverus High School, where he graduated in 1970.

Currier went to the University of Maine for a couple of years, playing football for one, then returned to Westbrook, where he served as a police officer while attending the University of Southern Maine. He graduated from USM in 1975.

His brother-in-law was a Navy pilot, Currier said, and mentioned that he and his colleagues admired the work of Coast Guard aviators. After talking about it for a time, Currier’s wife, Mary Jane, picked up recruiting papers and left them out for him.

“She said, ‘If I was you, I’d fill these out,’ ” Currier said. “She was right.”

Currier was accepted for officer candidate school and applied for flight school, which was highly competitive – about 1,000 candidates for 80 openings. He had flown some small planes while in high school and figured his experience helped him get accepted.

Soon, Currier was piloting a Coast Guard helicopter on search-and-rescue and law enforcement missions.

After Cape Cod, Currier was stationed at Sitka, Alaska; Traverse City, Mich.; and Astoria, Ore., before commanding air stations in Detroit and Miami.

He was promoted to rear admiral in 2005, and, as a consequence of the military’s “up-or-out” career ladder, had to move into a leadership role that got him off the flight lines, where he had earned a fistful of awards for demanding rescue operations.

He has been commander of the 13th Coast Guard District in Seattle and has been Coast Guard chief of staff and deputy commandant for mission support since 2010.

Currier said he had to provide a two-year commitment for his new job, after which he and his wife — who have two grown sons and four grandchildren — plan to start that retirement at a home they’ve built in Traverse City.

Currier said he still loves Maine, where his parents still live, but “a house in an orchard overlooking Lake Michigan” is proving to be a strong draw.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com