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|I joined the Coast Guard in July 1986. I've had various assignments since then: One year as Assistant Company Commander at Boot Camp in Cape May, NJ; eight months of technical training in Great Lakes, IL; six months of on-the-job training followed by six months of advanced technical training in Yorktown, VA; a three-year tour aboard CG Cutter MORGENTHAU (WHEC 722) with a cross-decking (explained later) to the CG Cutter MUNRO (WHEC 724) in Alameda, CA; three and a half years of instructor duty in Yorktown, VA (to teach the same advanced technical school I had attended); a three year tour aboard CG Cutter CAMPBELL (WMEC 909) in New Bedford, MA; a two year tour as a CG Recruiter in El Paso, TX; a two year return to CGC MUNRO; another tour in Yorktown to supervise the same technical school; and then a three year tour in Arlington, VA to oversee the assignments of 1250 Electronics Technicians. That's nine PCS moves in my first 20-years... the shortest of which was 650-miles until I went to Arlington. Read on for details.|
|As a Fire Control Technician (FT) in the Coast Guard, my job involved operating and maintaining the ship's primary defense system, the Mark 92 Gun Fire Control System. The Mk-92 tracks ships, aircraft, and missiles, then computes gun aiming and firing orders. The Mk-92 is the controlling station for the ship's main battery, a 76mm gun capable of firing up to 80 rounds per minute (pictured at right). I'm also trained on the Harpoon Anti-Ship Missile System; however, the Coast Guard's relationship with the Harpoon program was short-lived.|
|Some FTs were trained to maintain the Close-In Weapons system (CIWS), pictured at left. It's designed to track inbound threats and fire tungsten rounds at a rate of up to 4500 rounds per minute. CIWS fires so fast that a 100-round burst is fired in just over one second, creating a wall of projectiles between the ship and its threat. CIWS is the absolute last line of defense for the ship in the event of a missile attack.|
MORGENTHAU is a 378-ft high-endurance cutter
homeported in Alameda, CA. At the time, all 378s were
going through an extensive three-year maintenance
program, called FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation and
Renovation). It was time for MORGENTHAU to begin FRAM.
CGC MUNRO had just finished FRAM, so the two ships
moored side by side in Seattle, WA. The crew moved
everything from MORGENTHAU to MUNRO (cross-decked).
MORGENTHAU was decommissioned and MUNRO was
recommissioned, all in one ceremony. MUNRO, with its
new (but experienced) crew, returned to Alameda.
MUNRO spent most of her time patrolling the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. I was an Assistant Boarding Officer while onboard. One sting operation seized a $1.3-million fisheries violation and took us on a chase to Taiwan. While near their waters, we were diverted to Japan for logistics and typhoon avoidance. Although we normally avoid storms, MUNRO routinely patrolled in 20-foot seas or more (click photo for a view). Personally, I've been in 40-foot seas... not very fun when the ride doesn't stop. Besides Japan, MORGENTHAU/MUNRO also took me to Adak, Kodiak, and Ketchikan, AK; San Diego, CA; Portland, OR; and Honolulu, HI. My primary duty on MUNRO was to operate and maintain the Mk-92 Gun Fire Control System. I advanced to FT2/E-5 during my tour aboard MUNRO.
|Having gained lots of experience aboard MUNRO's new Fire Control System, the Coast Guard felt I had what it took to teach at the Coast Guard's Weapons School. Even as a junior Petty Officer, I wasted no time becoming a technical expert on some of the Mk-92's more-sophisticated subsystems. I advanced to FT1/E-6 after two years. I assisted with the improvement of course material and the rewriting of the entire test bank. I was short-toured due to the fact that Yorktown has always been a picking grounds for Mk-92 technicians. Still, I was glad to accept a new challenge. My instructor tour provided me with the expertise needed to lead my first shop at my next afloat assignment.|
|CGC CAMPBELL is a 270-ft
medium- endurance cutter homeported in New Bedford,
MA. The missions I experienced while on CAMPBELL were
far more diverse than those on MORGENTHAU/MUNRO.
Sometimes we conducted fisheries patrols in the
Northwest Atlantic. Often, we'd conduct
counter-narcotics patrols in the Caribbean.
Occasionally, we performed Alien Migration
Interdiction Operations (AMIO) in the Straits of
Florida. During my tour aboard CAMPBELL, we seized
over 10,000-lbs of raw cocaine and 350 pounds of
marijuana, worth nearly $200-million on the street.
In addition to the duties performed on MORGENTHAU/MUNRO, I was also a Combat Information Center (CIC) watch supervisor and one of two aircraft direction controllers. CIC (which is the heart of ship's voice communications) and the aircrafts it controls are crucial to the effectiveness of any ship's mission. CIC tracks suspect vessels (even over the horizon) and coordinates all missions. I was awarded "Sailor of the Quarter" and the Coast Guard Achievement Medal for assuming the additional duties of my supervisor for nine months when he was sent ashore pending a replacement. As seen in the photo, 270s were known to be "lively at sea" (the only class of ship to ride so poorly that "Jane's Fighting Ships" saddled it with this phrase to describe its ride). These are only 15-foot seas. CAMPBELL's diverse missions have taken me to Boston, MA; Newport, RI; New London, CT; Portland, ME; Norfolk, VA; Miami, Ft Lauderdale, Mayport, and Key West, FL; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Port Au Prince, Haiti; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Guantanamo, Cuba; Barahona, Dominican Republic; Curacao, Netherlands Antilles; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Rodman, Panama; Malaga and Cartagena, Colombia; and Guayaquil and Manta, Equador (via the Panama Canal).
|A tour in CG Recruiting is something that I had never considered before. I felt I had done everything an FT can do. Therefore, an "Out-of-Rate-Job" was next on my horizon. Being a good public speaker and enthusiastic about telling people about the Coast Guard, I figured recruiting was for me. One of the tests of becoming a recruiter, as told to me by 10 different recruiters during informal telephone interviews, is that I wouldn't be offered the any offices that I requested. This was to see whether I wanted to be a recruiter or just wanted geographic preference. I decided that there were only three offices to which I absolutely would not accept orders (I kept that info secret). I asked for all offices in Texas, except for one. I was offered El Paso... the Texas office I was trying to avoid (but not one of my "Forget It" offices). I decided to give it a shot. I really enjoyed delivering presentations and even the early morning paperwork at the MEPS. However, thepersistence requiredto keep most of my undermotivated applicants interested began to take its toll on my morale (I learned later in my career that my "personal profile" is not a good match for a "sales" position). At the same time, the FT rating was suffering critical manning shortages. Since I've always been a good FT, I decided to use the shortages to my advantage and request an early transfer.|
| This request gave me the
choice of four cutters: Two in Seattle, WA and two in
Alameda, CA. Since I was familiar with MUNRO, knew a
few people onboard, and my wife's family was nearby to
support her while I was at sea, I requested orders to
MUNRO. My duties were about the same as before, but my
quality of life was a little better than before since
I was more senior. Also, MUNRO now has technologies
that make life at sea easier than it was ten years
ago. Examples are a sea pay enhancement (up to $600/mo
or more), satellite television, e-mail at sea, and
limited Internet access while at sea. The attacks on
the U.S. on September 11, 2001 have changed the way
the Coast Guard conducts business. For example, I
quickly requalified to carry all Coast Guard weapons,
including qualifying as "Expert" on the rifle, in
order to augment the Ship's Security Defense Force
(SSDF). Since I'm familiar and comfortable with
shipboard operations and routines, I opted to take on
additional responsibilities such as Landing Signals
Officer (LSO, pictured at right), Ship's Webmaster,
and as Human Relations Committee member. The highlight
of my tour was participating as LSO in an operation
that netted the seizure of over 7000-lbs of raw
cocaine in two separate busts, worth over $127-million
on the streets. These busts were made possible by the
Coast Guard's relatively new HITRON armed helicopter.
My second tour on MUNRO took me to the ports of
Golfito and Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Acapulco,
Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallerta, Mexico; Victoria, BC;
and Adak and Kodiak, AK.
I was featured in "Driver Magazine," a Volkswagen publication, during my tour. Other than the fact that I own a couple of VWs, I'm not sure why I was chosen. But the editor wanted to make the Coast Guard a focus. Since I don't display our last name on this website, I've stripped it from the article. Also, remember that the author took some "artistic liberties" to make the story more interesting. If you've never served on a Coast Guard cutter, you may not even notice. But you Coasties keep in mind that, while the stories within are true, some artistic flair was added. ;-) Here's the 575-kb article in PDF format.
|Upon reporting to MUNRO, I managed to quickly advance to FTC/E-7. This rewarded me with a short tour and a shocking assignment to TRACEN Yorktown (new FTCs normally go/stay afloat). Not only did I become in charge of the school at which I once was a student, then an instructor, I was also well-positioned to have a significant impact on the future of my field. Examples of my endeavors included mitigating hardships associated with the 2003 ET/FT merger (a huge undertaking that will change the way the Coast Guard views and trains fire control technicians, now called "Tactical Electronics Technicians") and acting as technical advisor to Headquarters in areas of the Coast Guard's newest fire control system (to be deployed on the forthcoming National Security Cutter). All of this excitement has changed me from one certain to retire at the 20-year mark into one who desires to advance further and stay in the Coast Guard for 30-years. I began competing for Chief Warrant Officer in 2004 and began competing for ETCS/E-8 in 2005. I made the cuts for both in 2005. I chose the CWO path due to the wider variety of assignment options. But it's good to know I had earned my star (E-8). ;-)|
|My first tour as a CWO was as the Electronics Technician Assignment Officer. In a nutshell, I managed the transfers of over 1200 Electronics Technicians throughout the Coast Guard. It was very interesting and quite a challenge. The learning curve was incredibly steep... like drinking from a fire hose. ;-) I was responsible for determining who transferred when and where within my job field. The delicate part was balancing the needs of the service with the desires and/or needs of the servicemember. It could be a pretty thankless job, especially if the member got an undesired job. But it WAS rewarding to do a member and the organization good. It's hard to imagine having a more influential job anywhere else.|
|My follow-on tour gave me a return to the Hampton Roads area, this time at the Coast Guard Command, Control and Communications Engineering Center, or C3CEN. The C3CEN develops, builds, fields, trains, and supports advanced electronic command, control, communications and navigation systems. I'm part of the "Rescue 21" section. Rescue 21, or R21, is the Coast Guard’s advanced command, control and communications system. Created to improve the ability to assist mariners in distress and save lives and property at sea, the system is currently being installed in stages across the United States and its territories. We're almost finished. My primary role is the sustainment of the legacy "National Distress System" (NDS) which will remain in place in Alaska and the Western Rivers region of the U.S. I used the term, "drinking from a firehose" when I described learning to be the detailer. Well, I'm convinced that most CWO jobs are just that way because no one is an expert at doing what each of us do until after we've been in each job for some time. Even then, there's a myriad of other tasks which get tossed our way, things we never expect to do yet must. EVERYTHING requires some learning. Sometimes, I think supervising a small Electronics Support Detachment (ESD) might be a nice "break." I'm not saying ESD's are easy. I just think I'd enjoy working closer to the deckplate. However, my best opportunities to remain in the area are all at the upper-support levels. It's a sacrifice I make to keep the family stationary. Only time will tell what my future will bring. ;-)|
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