100 years of Coast Guard aviation: ‘Just another day on duty’

2016 marks the 100th anniversary of Coast Guard Aviation, which traces its roots to 1916 when Elmer Stone became the first Coast Guard aviator to attend Naval flight training.

To celebrate, Coast Guard Compass reached out to those who carry out aviation missions every day and asked them – ‘Why did you choose to become a Coast Guard aviator?’ Stay tuned all year as we share the stories of the crews who conduct nearly every Coast Guard mission from the sky and join us in celebrating “Coast Guard aviation: Into the Storm for 100 years.” Follow along on social media using #CGFlies100, and let us know if there is anything specific you’d like to see as we celebrate the centennial!

Below, Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Youngs, an aviation maintenance technician currently stationed at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Washington, D.C., shares his views on being a member of the Coast Guard aviation family.

Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Youngs, an aviation maintenance technician currently stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Washington, D.C. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Youngs, an aviation maintenance technician currently stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Washington, D.C. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Coast Guard portion of my career started a little late. I had completed nine years in the Marine Corps and, after a little searching, found what I was looking for in the Coast Guard. I had a short stop in Cape May, New Jersey, then onto my first duty station assigned to C-130H’s in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. I immediately noticed that there were some differences between the two services. I tried to keep an open mind and chalked these differences up to, different service, different mission and different mindset. It took a little time to figure out how things worked.

Two weeks after arriving in Elizabeth City, the unit held an all hands. We formed up in the hanger and I remember thinking a little condescendingly, “Look at these guys.”

We were called to attention and after a few brief words we were instructed to head to the large training room. We shuffled in like some kind of large gaggle, took our seats, then came to attention as the commanding officer entered the room.

The first name was called out; he stood up and headed forward. The whole room clapped as he stepped onto the small stage. I still had a Marine Corps-style hair cut and referred to food as “chow” at this point. I can remember thinking, “Is this some kind of game show?”

I don’t recall what the first contestant had received, but he quickly shook hands with the commanding officer and headed for his seat. Three more names where called out, the clapping started again as they took the stage. The announcer began reading their award citation. They stood proudly as they were being recognized for their part in a successful search and rescue case.

Their efforts resulted in the safe return of a father and son lost while on a fishing trip. After the awards were presented the commanding officer then read a letter he had received from the wife/mother of the two fishermen. I was taken aback.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

At that moment, I realized I was in a room full of true heroes.

To everyone sitting around me, the actions of the Coasties on stage had all been just another day on duty. In an instant it hit me and my arrogance washed away. I was now filled with awe for the people that surrounded me in that room.

Over the last eleven years, the Coast Guard has presented me with challenges, opportunities and rewards I never thought possible. In the time since that day, I have shared many amazing experiences, in all corners of the world, with my fellow Coast Guard aviators, forming lifelong friendships in the process.

To me, being a Coast Guard aviator means belonging to a family whose ranks are filled with professionals of the highest caliber.

The Coast Guard emblem is our crest; the golden wings on our chest are proof of membership. We share the view from above the clouds during our successes, and help put each other back together when a member is hard down.

I am continually amazed by my brothers and sisters, and all that we accomplish. At the end of the day if you ask any of us, we will humbly tell you we are just ordinary people, who get to do extraordinary things.

It’s just another day on duty.

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5 Responses

  1. Deb Piro says:

    So very proud of you Matt!!!

  2. J Boles says:

    I know this is late in coming Mathew, but welcome aboard!
    You are not the first multi-branch person to say that they thought differently of the Coast Guard while in their previous branch of service, and probably won’t be the last.
    The bottom line is that they have all said the same things that you have relayed in your interview about challenges and accomplishments and about being just another day on duty. If you think about all the other branches of service each has its specific duty in defending the freedom of our nation. The difference I see (and experienced in my 14 years of Coast Guard duty) is that, and especially now after 911, the Coast Guard doesn’t have just one specialty. We do it all whether on land abroad, the sea, the air or our home ports. We are the multi military freedom fighting law enforcement lifesaving service.
    And we do it every day without even thinking about it. Like you said, just another day on duty.
    Welcome aboard and thank you for your service!

  3. Edward J. Palumbo says:

    I am a Marine Corps RVN veteran and live in the Pacific Northwest. The USCG is doing extraordinary work along the Oregon and Washington coast and in the Puget Sound, and I applaud their work. I’m 69 years old now, and regard interservice rivalries are pointless and juvenile. I respect and admire Coasties for the lives they’ve saved and the job they’re doing. Bravo Zulu, ladies and gentlemen. Job well done.

  4. Arlene Amore says:

    Thank you for sharing your story Matt. Before reading this I had a great deal of admiration for you and the beautiful family you raised, I did not realize, however how you felt about the Coast Guards. It made me see just how special and necessary you all are to me and my safety and to America. Forgive me for not swelling with pride whenever I heard the name Coast Guards. It will never happen again. Thank you all for your service and for being the heroes that you all are.Thankyou…especially for opening my eyes. You all make me proud. Thanks Arlene

  5. M. Youngs says:

    I had no idea this many people would see and read this. Thank you all for sharing your comments and support.