Why I Serve: MST1 Forrest PhiferSpens

The Coast Guard celebrates 223 years of service to the nation this Sunday and is an opportunity to reflect upon the men and women who serve in America’s Coast Guard. In honor of our service’s birthday, we reached out to Coast Guard men and women and asked them to write an essay based on the prompt “Why I Serve.”

Today’s entry is written by Petty Officer 1st Class Forrest PhiferSpens. PhiferSpens serves in the 14th Coast Guard District and is one of the many men and women who serve in the Coast Guard Reserve, a flexible, responsive operational force that exists to support the Coast Guard. As a marine science technician, he plays the essential role of enforcing regulations for the safety of the marine environment and the security of the port.

From protecting U.S. waters and the public from oil and hazardous material responses to conducting safety and security inspections, Coast Guard marine science technicians plays the essential role of enforcing regulations for the safety of the marine environment and the security of the port. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

From protecting U.S. waters and the public from oil and hazardous material responses to conducting safety and security inspections, Coast Guard marine science technicians plays the essential role of enforcing regulations for the safety of the marine environment and the security of the port. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Forrest PhiferSpens.

“I love you, but you’re on your own with college.”

This is what my mom said to me when I was applying to colleges. My mom was often working seven days a week for years to provide for us. She had attended college when she was younger and stressed its value to both my brother and I.

I applied to and was accepted to a state college about two hours south of where I grew up. I started college in January 2001 and within a year had gone into debt which freaked me out. Having never had debt before I considered my options and decided to go talk to military recruiters.

“Money for college!” and “Two weeks every year and one weekend a month!” came the radio ads.

Petty Officer 1st Class Forrest PhiferSpens, a marine science technician in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Forrest PhiferSpens.

Petty Officer 1st Class Forrest PhiferSpens, a marine science technician in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 1st Class Forrest PhiferSpens.

At this time I had decided I was going to school to become a biologist and I was hoping to do something in the military somewhat related to my education. I visited the U.S. Coast Guard’s website and discovered the marine science technician rate.

I made a call to a local Coast Guard recruiter and went and visited her. She was a straightforward, no “B.S.” kind of recruiter. After working with her and jumping through hoop after hoop I made it past the Military Entrance Processing Station, and was sworn into the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.

Although I was originally motivated by the educational benefits, I found the Coast Guard Reserve to be aligned with my personal values.

“Be the change you want to see in the world,” was written on my graduation form. Being a member of the Coast Guard Reserve has enabled me to directly benefit my community. As a marine science technician, I respond to releases of oil and hazardous materials into the harbors and supervise their clean up so they don’t further impact food or water resources.

I also work with local facilities to ensure they follow safe work practices to prevent accidents and discharges. Marine science technicians help prevent incidents that impact the local community and commerce, which keeps people safe and the harbor working. Our primary goals are to keep people safe and our local waters clean.

As a conservation biologist, I work for the preservation and conservation of natural resources. As a reserve marine science technician, I get to extend my work from the terrestrial side to the ocean side.

Living in Hawai’i the ocean is a part of our daily lives and is valued by the people who live there. Being a member of the Coast Guard Reserve allows a seamless blend of my two jobs.

I’m proud of being a member of the Coast Guard Reserve and feel that my work benefits my community directly – even though many people will never see what we do on a daily basis. I am being a part of the change I wish to see in the world.

If you liked this essay, don’t forget to check out the rest of the “Why I Serve” essays.

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