The Coast Guard is an adaptable, responsive military force of about 42,000 active duty servicemembers – roughly three percent of the U.S. armed forces. As the smallest of the five branches, every Coast Guard man and woman is a vital part of the team.
You may not think that one crewmember on a cutter with about 100 personnel would be critical to the ship’s operation. But for the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca, Petty Officer 1st Class Casey Wardynski has been that shipmate.
During the Seneca’s recent patrol in the Western Caribbean Sea, Wardynski, a boatswain’s mate, was one of only two people qualified to operate the cutter’s boats in tactical pursuit situations. When the other coxswain was injured midway through the patrol, Wardynski stepped up to ensure the cutter’s mission readiness.
In fact, Wardynski was the coxswain that pursued a suspect self-propelled, semi-submersible vessel, or drug sub, recently featured on Compass that resulted in the seizure of more than 15,000 pounds of cocaine worth approximately $180 million.
“While in his pursuit of the SPSS vessel, Petty Officer Wardynski navigated more than 130 nautical miles over five hours in close proximity to shoals and foreign territorial seas to intercept the SPSS,” said Cmdr. Charles Fosse, commanding officer of Seneca. “After detaining the suspected drug smugglers, he facilitated the retrieval of two bales of floating contraband by adeptly maneuvering within close proximity to the sinking SPSS. These bales will be critical to the prospective prosecution of the first SPSS case in the Caribbean Sea by the U.S. Coast Guard.”
When at the helm of the cutter’s boat, Wardynski’s dedication to duty is acute regardless of the mission. He is not only committed to protecting America from threats delivered by sea but also to protecting his shipmates from the often dangerous conditions inherent in Coast Guard operations. While motoring his boat alongside the Seneca as a safety precaution during a nighttime operation, Wardynski’s vigilance was put to the test when an accident caused three crewmembers to fall overboard. He quickly reacted and maneuvered the boat to recover his shipmates within minutes of the accident.
As a first class petty officer, Wardynski’s is also a leader off the water. He is a mentor to deck department personnel helping them earn challenging shipboard qualifications. Known for inspiring even the most junior members of the cutter team to exceed expectations and achieve results beyond their paygrade, he sets them up for success in both their careers and in life.
“BM1 is a role model. The best way I would describe him is that he is somebody who will always help you when you are learning something. Whether you make a mistake or do something well, he will always recognize it, help you correct deficiencies, or pat you on the back if you did it the right way,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Nic Dziama. “He is one of the most dedicated people I have ever met. He’s one of those guys who will be right there to work alongside you. He treats everyone equally and always has the right advice.”
Paving the way for others to follow in his footsteps, Wardynski departs the Seneca next week as he moves on to other Coast Guard duties and responsibilities. To ensure the cutter is mission ready, Wardynski trained two new boat coxswains including mentoring Dziama through the rigorous and challenging qualification process.
“Whether leading his pursuit team in a five hour intercept resulting in the seizure of seven tons of contraband, or orchestrating the tow of an imperiled fishing vessel in the North Atlantic saving five lives, Petty Officer Wardynski has been a tireless leader and is the epitome of professionalism in his coxswain and shipboard duties,” said Fosse.