Drug bust is a Yard touchdown

The yard production team.  Pictured left to right are: Rodger Pugh, Donald Shields, John Downes, Ron Viands and Charles Zerbe. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The yard production team. Pictured left to right are: Rodger Pugh, Donald Shields, John Downes, Ron Viands and Charles Zerbe. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Written by Courtney Burnett.

The Ravens have claimed victory at Super Bowl XLVII, but the “coaches” of the Coast Guard Yard have produced a winning team of their own at the 113-year-old shipyard in Baltimore, Md. Together the yard team works daily to construct, repair and renovate Coast Guard ships and boats, literally keeping the Coast Guard fleet afloat to provide maritime safety and security to America.

The yard boasts of some of the best workers and management in the maritime industry. At the yard, dedicated coaches are behind the shipyard team. The production manager, the “head coach,” and four general foremen, the “assistant coaches,” provide workers with essential leadership and support needed to be successful. Each coach works in a specialized sector and brings his own game plan to the table to help create a winning organization. With its talented roster, the yard has a long heritage of wins to keep the Coast Guard fleet operating and accomplish vital missions.

The yard’s production manager is 47-year yard veteran Charles Zerbe. As leader of the team, Zerbe manages expectations of productivity and maintains a schedule that includes getting ships out on time. He accounts for various obstacles that can range from limited availability of parts to unpredictable weather. Though the challenges are certainly there, Zerbe believes it’s all worth it in the end.

With the yard’s winning record, Zerbe maintains a tight offense. Punting isn’t an option, and if most of the day’s work can be done in the first half, then there is a buffer if bumps come along in the second half.

Donald Shields has worked at the yard for 32 years and currently serves as general foreman of the Yard Mechanical Group, responsible for overhaul of all shipboard machinery. From engine repair to fin installation, Shields and his team help put together the “guts” of Coast Guard ships that go out and save lives.

Riggers at the Coast Guard Yard return Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo to sea to begin the final phase of the patrol boat’s modernization. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Riggers at the Coast Guard Yard return Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo to sea to begin the final phase of the patrol boat’s modernization. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

“I really do think that we provide good value here, and I really believe that when I send something down the creek, I would be willing to jump onboard,” said Shields. “The Yard contributes to the ship’s mission. That’s important to me. That’s what I get to say to my kids later on.”

Rodger Pugh, a 23-year Yard veteran, is general foreman of the Yard Structural Group and responsible for the welding, ship fitting, sheet metal and joiner shops. With limited manpower, an aging fleet and a tight budget, Pugh gets creative to provide for the ships trusted in his care. One of the best rewards that comes from his job is getting something old and making it work again.

“I like what I do. I like doing things with my hands, and now it’s helping people,” said Pugh.

As the newest member of the “assistant coaching team,” Ron Viands is the general foreman of the Yard Electro Group. Responsible for the electronics, electrical and ordnance shops, Viands believes there’s nothing better to than watching young workers improve and mature.

“Seeing someone develop and become your next work leader, your next trouble shooter is extremely gratifying,” he commented, “and many come to the Yard right out of high school.”

As a testament to their relentless team, earlier this month the 110-foot Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo, homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was the lead Coast Guard asset in a drug interdiction case off the coast of Dominican Republic. The Coast Guard and other federal agencies seized 2,800 pounds of cocaine, with a street value of $34 million. Sapelo left the yard a year ago after an extensive overhaul under the Coast Guard’s Mission Effectiveness Project, a modernization initiative spanning 12 months and requiring more tahn 80,000 hours of labor.

Sapelo’s role in this drug interdiction case was a touchdown for the yard production team and shipyard workers knowing their skilled hands allowed the Coast Guard to do its job and protect American citizens.

So, while one Super Bowl team victoriously held the Lombardi Trophy ceremoniously bringing football season to an end, there is another team of men and women at the Coast Guard Yard who are preparing to go to work. Three seconds…two seconds…one. It’s game time!

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  • http://twitter.com/jimdolbow Jim Dolbow

    Great post! Is Storis going to become a museum cutter? If so, when and where?

  • cmcfarland

    Ahh, the life of an old cutter… living history.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.at.pirate.hill Mark Story Jenks

    That is a great story, and a great accomplishment!

  • http://www.facebook.com/donah.ciomperlik Donah Ciomperlik

    A wonderful story and a proud legacy of our Coast Guard! They are very often over-looked when the accollades are awarded.

  • MadMunchkin

    At what point did Storis assume command and control of the Exxon Valdez cleanup? USCGC Rush was the first CG vessel on scene and command and control from then until after Exxon Valdez was removed.