Draining an extensive network of Oregon’s valleys on the western edge of the Cascade Range is the Umpqua River. At 111-miles long the river passes through villages, cities and towns characteristic of the Pacific Northwest. But as the river nears the Pacific at Winchester Bay, is a place near and dear to many a surfman’s heart – Coast Guard Station Umpqua River.
Station Umpqua River is home to a crew of dedicated Coast Guardsmen, sentinels to the abundance of recreational and commercial fisherman in the region. The station is remote, isolated and bears witness to some of the worst water there is. It’s also home to Chief Petty Officer Benjamin Snider, an extraordinarily skilled surfman.
The dangerous surf of the Pacific Northwest is nothing new to Snider who grew up in Cashmere, Wash. Snider has spent his entire career in the Pacific Northwest, entering the Coast Guard in 2001. He began his career at Coast Guard Station Chetco River, Ore., where he was a boat crewman, learning the ways of waves.
He further honed his skills in Seattle as a tactical boat coxswain but the surf community was calling him back. In 2008 he again found himself at the helm of a motor lifeboat but this time at Umpqua River, one of the harshest operating environments in the Coast Guard.
At Umpqua River, Snider is a leader and a mentor with a slew of duties that keeps him proficient. He is both a surfman and senior duty officer. He is also the station’s first lieutenant, supervising 12 crewmembers. His collateral duties include unit health promotion coordinator, auxiliary liaison and boat crew examination board member.
While he keeps busy with his duties, he never loses site of his critical role of protecting the recreational boating and commercial fishing communities. With this weighty responsibility in mind, Snider led the development and coordination of joint boat maintenance and training opportunities with neighboring stations. The joint trainings improved the overall readiness of each unit and allowed them to focus on their critical life-saving role.
Staying alert in the surf is no easy task and is made even more difficult at Umpqua River due to the river’s turbulent nature. Fitness is important to Snider in staying ready to perform his missions and he instills this sense of fitness in his fellow Coast Guardsmen. Snider led the enhancement of the station’s physical fitness program, including refurbishment of the unit’s gym and cardio training room. Snider also led his unit in a 50- mile leg of the Oregon Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run between North Bend and Florence, Ore.
Just as the environment in which Snider operates in is unique, so too is the community around him. Station Umpqua River is a key part of the fabric of the local community, and his leadership helped weave a tight bond between the community and the station.
Snider led numerous community service events, such as the Thunder Water 3000 fitness challenge food drive, where local businesses and private citizens pledged to donate food for every mile of activity. During the food drive, unit personnel completed more than 3,000 miles of fitness activity, resulting in more than 1,000 pounds of food being donated to the county’s food bank. His leadership inspired other units to do their part, and before long other units conducted similar events throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Snider’s proficiency in the surf and his ability to foster relationships with both his fellow crewmen and his community, earned him the honor of being the Coast Guard’s enlisted person of the year. Congratulations on your meritorious advancement, Chief. Semper Paratus!