100 years of Coast Guard aviation: ‘Just another day on duty’

2016 marks the 100th anniversary of Coast Guard Aviation, which traces its roots to 1916 when Elmer Stone became the first Coast Guard aviator to attend Naval flight training.

To celebrate, Coast Guard Compass reached out to those who carry out aviation missions every day and asked them – ‘Why did you choose to become a Coast Guard aviator?’ Stay tuned all year as we share the stories of the crews who conduct nearly every Coast Guard mission from the sky and join us in celebrating “Coast Guard aviation: Into the Storm for 100 years.” Follow along on social media using #CGFlies100, and let us know if there is anything specific you’d like to see as we celebrate the centennial!

Below, Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Youngs, an aviation maintenance technician currently stationed at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Washington, D.C., shares his views on being a member of the Coast Guard aviation family.

Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Youngs, an aviation maintenance technician currently stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Washington, D.C. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Youngs, an aviation maintenance technician currently stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Washington, D.C. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Coast Guard portion of my career started a little late. I had completed nine years in the Marine Corps and, after a little searching, found what I was looking for in the Coast Guard. I had a short stop in Cape May, New Jersey, then onto my first duty station assigned to C-130H’s in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. I immediately noticed that there were some differences between the two services. I tried to keep an open mind and chalked these differences up to, different service, different mission and different mindset. It took a little time to figure out how things worked.

Two weeks after arriving in Elizabeth City, the unit held an all hands. We formed up in the hanger and I remember thinking a little condescendingly, “Look at these guys.”

We were called to attention and after a few brief words we were instructed to head to the large training room. We shuffled in like some kind of large gaggle, took our seats, then came to attention as the commanding officer entered the room.

The first name was called out; he stood up and headed forward. The whole room clapped as he stepped onto the small stage. I still had a Marine Corps-style hair cut and referred to food as “chow” at this point. I can remember thinking, “Is this some kind of game show?”

I don’t recall what the first contestant had received, but he quickly shook hands with the commanding officer and headed for his seat. Three more names where called out, the clapping started again as they took the stage. The announcer began reading their award citation. They stood proudly as they were being recognized for their part in a successful search and rescue case.

Their efforts resulted in the safe return of a father and son lost while on a fishing trip. After the awards were presented the commanding officer then read a letter he had received from the wife/mother of the two fishermen. I was taken aback.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

U.S. Coast Guard photo.

At that moment, I realized I was in a room full of true heroes.

To everyone sitting around me, the actions of the Coasties on stage had all been just another day on duty. In an instant it hit me and my arrogance washed away. I was now filled with awe for the people that surrounded me in that room.

Over the last eleven years, the Coast Guard has presented me with challenges, opportunities and rewards I never thought possible. In the time since that day, I have shared many amazing experiences, in all corners of the world, with my fellow Coast Guard aviators, forming lifelong friendships in the process.

To me, being a Coast Guard aviator means belonging to a family whose ranks are filled with professionals of the highest caliber.

The Coast Guard emblem is our crest; the golden wings on our chest are proof of membership. We share the view from above the clouds during our successes, and help put each other back together when a member is hard down.

I am continually amazed by my brothers and sisters, and all that we accomplish. At the end of the day if you ask any of us, we will humbly tell you we are just ordinary people, who get to do extraordinary things.

It’s just another day on duty.

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One Response

  1. M. Youngs says:

    I had no idea this many people would see and read this. Thank you all for sharing your comments and support.