Leading the line

Written by Chief Petty Officer Luke Pinneo

U.S. Coast Guard Fireman Eliya O’leary, an engineer aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche, was recently recognized as the cutter’s Junior Sailor of the Month. Noted for her impeccable work ethic and tireless devotion to her shipmates, she stands as a role model for junior and senior members alike. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Luke Pinneo.

U.S. Coast Guard Fireman Eliya O’leary, an engineer aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche, was recently recognized as the cutter’s Junior Sailor of the Month. Noted for her impeccable work ethic and tireless devotion to her shipmates, she stands as a role model for junior and senior members alike. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Luke Pinneo.

She held the line tightly as the ship pushed off from the pier. She shifted her weight back, heaved the line onboard, and stowed the gear.

The supervisor shouted to her sharply from across the deck, “O’leary!”

She turned, shielded the sun from her eyes, and yelled back, “Yeah?”

“Nice job,” he said flashing a thumbs up.

Routine praise; she gets that a lot.

Honored as Coast Guard Cutter Waesche’s “Junior Sailor of the Month” in December, Fireman Eliya O’leary is habitually commended by peers, supervisors, and her command. But ask her to describe her accomplishments, and it’s clear that humility is another of her many admirable traits.

“I’m not rare,” she said.

From her perspective, excellence is commonplace in the Coast Guard, especially from her experience aboard Waesche.

But while she may downplay her own work ethic, it’s too exceptional for her supervisor to ignore.

“She earned every bit of that Sailor of the Month award,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Eamon Meehan.

Recently recognized as U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche’s Junior Sailor of the Month, U.S. Coast Guard Fireman Eliya O’leary handles a line and assists shipmates as the cutter gets  underway from a port call in Huatulco, Mexico, Jan 22, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Luke Pinneo.

Recently recognized as U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche’s Junior Sailor of the Month, U.S. Coast Guard Fireman Eliya O’leary handles a line and assists shipmates as the cutter gets underway from a port call in Huatulco, Mexico, Jan 22, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Luke Pinneo.

He said O’leary’s attitude is evident in everything she does, whether as part of her assigned duties, additional roles and responsibilities she pursues, or when she steps up to help shipmates in need.

She works in engineering, where, according to Meehan, she does an outstanding job maintaining engine spaces, ensuring safety, and helping her shipmates at all hours.

For instance, when Waesche took detainees aboard after a drug seizure, O’leary was tapped to move from her normal duties to standing a long detainee watch.

Afterwards, her supervisor tried to give her time off. He said instead of enjoying the down time, she volunteered to take a fellow engineer’s machinery watch.

“That’s just who she is – a great worker and a loyal shipmate,” Meehan said.

As the cutter approached several notable and high-level inspections, O’leary logged numerous dutiful hours deep in the engine spaces ensuring each were safe and compliant. Part of the preparation was inspecting hundreds of bolts in the deck grating, which she did entirely by herself.

“It’s a long and tedious task,” said Meehan.

But, he said someone has to do it and it needs to be someone dependable.

“It’s a job that has to be done correctly, and with her, you always know it’s done right,” he said.

Always forward leaning, O’leary constantly pushes her E-3 skill set into higher paygrades. While the onboard duty machinery technician prepared to pull and test oil samples from machinery spaces – a dirty and arduous job at best – O’leary rolled up her sleeves and jumped in to assist.

O’leary said from a young age, she was raised to value people and work attentively. She said life on Waesche affords boundless opportunities to do both.

“This is my family now, aboard the cutter, and I want to take care of them,” she said.

Generally, the trademark of a prized cutter crewman is the ability to cross decks, cross train, and move seamlessly from one mission set or department to another. Aboard Waesche, a state-of-the-art vessel with unique mission capability, this is especially true. Here, although a junior member, O’leary shines as an exemplar to junior and senior members alike.

Yet, she insists she is simply one of many. “I think a lot of people can do more than they realize,” she said.

And from her vantage point, there is a payoff for doing more and working hard.

“Half the fun of working is learning something new,” she said.

Among the perks of being sailor of the month – an eloquent citation, a generous gift certificate for the Ship’s Store and bragging rights – O’leary was also awarded head-of-the-line privileges aboard Waesche. As she sails forward in her career, given her performance record, that’s a position she’s likely to get used to.

Recently recognized as U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche’s Junior Sailor of the Month, U.S. Coast Guard Fireman Eliya O’leary works dutifully to ensure a clean and safe engine space, Jan 22, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Luke Pinneo.

Recently recognized as U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche’s Junior Sailor of the Month, U.S. Coast Guard Fireman Eliya O’leary works dutifully to ensure a clean and safe engine space, Jan 22, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Luke Pinneo.

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