Coast Guard small boat stations are at the very root of our Service. Since the U.S. Life-Saving Service, the proud men and women who man these units put a public face to the U.S. Coast Guard and are ready to respond to any coastal emergency at a moment’s notice.
It is this Semper Paratus spirit of a small boat station and its commanding officer that is resonant in the Sumner I. Kimball Readiness Award – a prestigious award reserved for the top performing units that demonstrate excellence in crew proficiency, boat and equipment condition and overall operational readiness.
To receive the Kimball award twice in a row is impressive. Three times is rare. But, four times? On June 20, Chief Warrant Officer James Mullinax and the Station Lake Worth Inlet crew in Riviera Beach, Fla., accepted their fourth consecutive Kimball award. Only one other shore-based unit, Station Wrightsville Beach, N.C., has risen to such an impressive stature.
“The Kimball Award is, at best, difficult to earn, it requires man and machine to come together in flawless execution of the Coast Guard’s search and rescue mission,” said Mullinax, commanding officer of the station for the past two Kimball awards. “The Kimball is a testament to one of the Coast Guard’s greatest heroes. The men and women of Station Lake Worth Inlet honor him with their dedication to excellence.”
Behind the dedication of the crew there must stand a strong leader who instills the values and pride necessary for the devotion to duty the Kimball represents. The crew credits their operational success to two traits they find in Mullinax – tireless energy and constant training. Fondly called “Bosun,” Mullinax inspires his crew to achieve high levels of operational excellence.
“Bosun is always here at the station, after hours and weekends,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas Sims, the operations officer at the station. “Whenever you see the ‘old man’ here putting in extra effort, it makes you want to also put maximum effort in to the station.”
“Nothing and no one is beneath the Bosun,” added Sims. “If a brand-new Seaman needs help with learning how to plot, then he’ll stop what he’s doing to help him. We drill non-stop and he’s always war-gaming, asking, ‘What would you do in this situation?’ So when the SAR alarm goes off, they know what they are going to do because they’ve gone through the scenario.”
During Mullinax’s first year at the station, the crew had a large rescue operation which involved the coordination of several agencies. Following the case, Mullinax took the lessons learned and spearheaded the writing of the Palm Beach Mass Rescue Operations Plan. For the past two years, his leadership has been instrumental in laying the foundation and drawing together more than 15 local and state agencies and civilian partners to conduct an annual full-scale mass casualty exercise.
Additionally, on behalf of Coast Guard Sector Miami, Mullinax developed working relationships with a variety of industry partners, Customs and Border Protection and other local, state and federal agencies. Through his initiative, there is now a monthly meeting of all Miami-area Department of Homeland Security partners that has led to a streamlined flow of information and improved cooperation.
“Chief Warrant Officer Mullinax’s outstanding leadership and vast experience make him an inspiration to his crew and the entire Coast Guard,” said Capt. Greg Depinet, deputy commander for Sector Miami. “His preparation and work ethic were crucial to Station Lake Worth Inlet earning the highly coveted Kimball Award on two separate occasions under his command. This accomplishment is a testament to the high standard of excellence maintained at Station Lake Worth Inlet and South Florida is without a doubt lucky to have Chief Warrant Officer Mullinax protecting our shores.”
After a 30-year Coast Guard career, Mullinax will retire on the Coast Guard’s birthday, August 4. His service and leadership is sure to leave a legacy as others follow in his footsteps.