Bringing morale to the Coast Guard in Alaska: Country-style

This post originally appeared at Coast Guard Alaska and was written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings

The sweet smell of barbeque permeates the air as people venture into the room. The first few arrivals hesitate at seeing the vast space with a dozen empty tables; slowly the sound of light chatter fills the area as more people arrive and the room becomes a warm, crowded mass of excitement. Hungry families are invited to fill their plates with giant hot dogs, barbecued ribs, chicken, corn and beans as children run between chairs in an impromptu game of tag. Red, white and blue banners cover a wall over the dance floor, two miniature bales of hay topped with colorful lassos, a table filled with ball caps and white cowboy hats, and a lone stool and microphone await the start of a lively evening for Coast Guard members, veterans and their families at the largest Coast Guard base in the nation.

Robi Powers, founder of the American300 Foundation, speaks to 6-year-old Kenny Fussey during an American300 and United Service Organization tour at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska, May 24, 2014. Powers and the team visited six Alaskan cities throughout the Memorial Day week. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

Robi Powers, founder of the American300 Foundation, speaks to 6-year-old Kenny Fussey during an American300 and United Service Organization tour at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

The United Service Organization and American300 team recently visited Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska. Kodiak was one of six Coast Guard communities that the group visited during their trip to Alaska.

The American300 team is a volunteer-run organization that was founded five years ago to increase the resiliency of the Armed Forces through motivation and to honor service members, their families and their communities.

As with their previous visits through Unalaska and Homer, the evening started off with the founder of American300, Robi Powers, greeting guests and introducing his team before handing the microphone to Nashville country music artist Lucas Hoge.

Throughout the event, the Golden Anchor banquet room livened up as children danced uninhibitedly on the polished wood dance floor and Hoge sang some of his original songs as well as some well-known country favorites. After a few songs, Hoge stepped aside to give the floor to the rest of the American300 team and a practice bull.

Former Miss Rodeo America 2009 Maegan Ridley, Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association World Champion Annie Ellett and World Champion Rodeo Star Kaycee Feild lined the children up along the edges of the dance floor and taught each child how to rope a bull.

Meanwhile, Hoge, Powers and Jeff Chadwick, Wrangler Corporation director of western events and athletes, circled the room chatting with the rest of the service members.

“This is our fifth year of the Wrangler National Patriot Memorial Day Tour and it’s been an honor to visit and salute our services,” said Chadwick. “We’ve visited all the other branches and now the Coast Guard, which has been quite fabulous. What a great group of lifesavers we have with the Coast Guard. One of the neatest things is that Coasties all love their jobs serving their country.”

Former Miss Rodeo America Maegan Ridley teaches a child to toss a rope over a practice bull during an American300 and United Service Organization visit to Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska, May 24, 2014. The American300 team toured six cities in Alaska during the Memorial Day weekend and throughout the week. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

Former Miss Rodeo America Maegan Ridley teaches a child to toss a rope over a practice bull during an American300 and United Service Organization visit to Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Max Richardson, a gunner’s mate at Air Station Kodiak, followed the team throughout their stay and escorted them to the Coast Guard Cutter Midgett, a 378-foot high endurance cutter homeported in Seattle. The team also participated in Kodiak’s annual Crab Fest alongside several Coast Guard service members.

“The team participated in the survival suit race and got to know some of the Coasties,” said Richardson. “They even met the former commanding officer of the air station.”

While these country pastimes may not be for everyone, it certainly got Richardson excited.

“I personally had a blast, and I think a lot of other people did too,” said Richardson. “I would have to say my favorite part was just getting to know the group. I also got a cowboy hat signed by everyone. As a gunner’s mate, I’m particularly happy with having received the Mounted Shooting World Champion’s autograph. When she said ‘mounted shooting,’ I was like, ‘Whoa! You mean like shooting a gun from horseback?’ And that’s when I got interested.”

Richardson wasn’t the only one who enjoyed having the USO American300 team in Kodiak.

“The USO American300 visit to Coast Guard units throughout Alaska and here in Kodiak was a tremendous success,” said Capt. Jerald Woloszynski, commanding officer of Coast Guard Base Kodiak, “I had my wife, son and daughter there and they all had a great time. Our families really enjoyed the music, the food and family-friendly events. A big Bravo Zulu to the entire American300 team!”

The evening didn’t stop after the event at the Golden Anchor. The team then boarded a van and returned to the Midgett to perform a small concert and give roping demonstrations to the crew. Hoge even invited Coast Guard Academy Cadet 3rd Class Abby Culp, a visiting crewmember aboard the Midgett, to perform a duet with him. Afterwards, the American300 team headed back to their hotel for another day of travel before visiting Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan.

“This was a great tour that we went on,” said Hoge. “To see the Coast Guard in action, get to know them and see what they do has been great. I’d like to thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

Country music artist Lucas Hoge sings to crew members aboard Coast Guard Cutter Midgett during a United Service Organization and American300 tour in Kodiak, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

Country music artist Lucas Hoge sings to crew members aboard Coast Guard Cutter Midgett during a United Service Organization and American300 tour in Kodiak, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

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