Guardian of the Week: Jim Smith

James H. Smith is the recipient of the 2009 Coast Guard Civilian Employee of the Year Award. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Luke Pinneo

Our Guardian of the Week is a perfect example of how vital the civilian workforce is to the Coast Guard’s missions.  Jim Smith, maintenance mechanic leader at Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., possesses the devotion to duty and institutional knowledge that make him an indispensable part of his unit.

“The most stand-out element of Jim is he’s really a jack of all trades,” said Capt. Paul Ratte, commanding officer of the air station.  “He’s integrated at all levels.  Countless times he’s asked the right questions and has averted potential disasters.”

He’s a mechanic by trade but his skill-set encompasses so much more.  Recently contractors were preparing to pour concrete for a new refueling area.  Just before they started to pour Smith noticed they were leaving expansion joints in what should have been a solid slab so that spilled fuel would be contained.  Because he read the specifications ahead of time he was able to point out the mistake, said Ratte.

“Remember, this is an engine mechanic,” added Ratte.  “He’s innately sharp when it comes to engineering.”

During the same project Smith also took measurements of the fuel trucks and realized they would not clear the ramps as they were planned and coordinated the fix.

Smith demonstrates how to use a piece of equipment to a coworker.

When the unit was without an electrician for 3 months during transfer season Smith stepped up and filled in.  Going well beyond the scope of his assigned duties he took it upon himself to do the requisite research to have LED lighting installed at the unit and even played a key role in installing a video conference suite.

When a massive blizzard knocked out both normal and emergency power at Station Cape May Smith braved the white-out conditions to unhook a generator at the air station and deliver and install it at the station 55 miles away.  Without Smith’s can-do attitude the station would have been without power for two days and essentially unable to operate.

“Jim is a model civilian employee and represents the very best in honor, respect and devotion to duty,” said Adm. Bob Papp, Coast Guard commandant.  “His commitment to keeping our rescue helicopters operational is just one example of the critical role civilians play in mission readiness.”

Well done shipmate.

Do you know someone in the Coast Guard that has done something great for the service, the missions or the public? Please submit your nominations for Guardian of the Week using the submit button at the top of the page.