Standing the Hawaiian Islands watch requires a force of on call specialists, always ready for the surge capacity nature of the job. Modern search and rescue methodology has sprinted forward in recent decades, keeping pace with evolving technology. Sometimes a Coast Guardsmen’s best lifesaving tool is not only more than two hundred year of lifesaving tradition, but also products of the digital era.
Quick reflexes and fast thinking were put to the test late on a late Friday afternoon when the Station Bodega Bay, Calif., duty crew sprinted into action at the sound of the search and rescue alarm. Fireman Jacob Smith, who been stationed at Bodega Bay for the past three years, was a crewman on the 47-foot motor lifeboat that launched when they received word of a fishing vessel that was taking on water with two people aboard.
In 1867 the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, predecessor service to the U.S. Coast Guard, transported the first federal officials to the territory of Alaska. From this modest beginning, cutters would eventually sail into the Arctic and the Bering Sea to protect the sea and those on it. Thus, “The Bering Sea Patrol” was born. Today, Coast Guard men and women continue to sail the Bering’s frigid waters, from the Akutan to the Pribilofs. It takes a certain type of sailor to perform operations in these waters; Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Valdes is one such Coast Guardsman.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Ouellette was fresh out of boot camp in July 2007 when he was assigned to Station Grays Harbor. He arrived at his first Coast Guard unit ready to learn. Fast forward to today and Ouellette has more than just learned; he has mastered. Ouellette has earned the title of Coast Guard surfman No. 473. Along with his title of surfman, he has also earned the unofficial title of “seaman to surfman” at Grays Harbor – meaning he arrived at the unit a seaman and will be leaving a surfman.
It was a week after Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp had given his State of the Coast Guard address. Capt. Joseph P. Kelly, commanding officer of Air Station Elizabeth City, had set aside an afternoon for all-hands training to watch the speech and reflect on themes from the address. In the two hours surrounding the scheduled training time, however, the SAR alarm had sounded. Not once, but three times. In a period of just a few short hours crews would launch out of Air Station Elizabeth City one after the other. By day’s end four lives would be saved.
Chatham is the only unit to operate the 42-foot Special Purpose Craft – Near Shore Lifeboat. The lifeboat was specifically designed for operating in shallow water, such as the conditions found on the Chatham bar where there are depths as shallow as four feet. The lifeboat is equipped with state-of-the-art wireless control systems and twin jet-drives. As a highly unique craft, the lifeboat requires a skilled operator at the helm, and no one is better at the helm than Chief Petty Officer William Lefever.
The history of a military unit helps mold and shape its identity, sometimes just as much as the crews who carry out its missions. When a unit reaches 50 years in operation it usually serves as a proud marking point and an excellent time to look back on what events shaped that identity. For Air Station Los Angeles, that day came on Nov. 16, 2012, during an ceremony attended by current and past aircrews.
Because today is Halloween – a day of spooky ghost stories, haunted houses and trick or treating – we thought we would take a moment and ask Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Mantell what he feared most. Mantell is a junior surfman responsible for operating in one of the nation’s most perilous maritime environments – Cape Disappointment. Commonly known as Station Cape “D,” crewmembers respond to more than 300 calls for assistance every year. Here, in his own words, is Mantell’s response to “What scares you?”
The Coast Guard has a proud tradition of preserving life in even the most adverse conditions and stood ready to continue that tradition in the wake of Sandy. Coast Guard helicopter crews were busy responding to multiple requests to rescue people who were trapped in their homes in the wake of the storm. Coast Guard aircrews were sent from both air stations Atlantic City and Cape Cod to provide search and rescue response.
Four sailors started the North American Rally to the Caribbean in the 46-foot sailboat Elle, but ended the race in Bermuda aboard a 387-foot container ship. The sailors were racing from Newport, Mass., to Bermuda in November 2011 when their sailboat lost steering 160 miles north of Bermuda. Rescue authorities in Bermuda received the distress call as the boat was tossed about in gale force winds.