From the maritime boundary line between Russia and the United States to the waters of the Pacific Northwest and south to Central America, the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Alert is at all times prepared to serve.
Of the many missions Alert’s crew performs in the Pacific, patrolling the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone to protect living marine resources from foreign fishing interests and enforcing fisheries and vessel safety laws is one of their keystones. Alert also enforces laws regarding illegal immigration and the detection, monitoring and interdiction of many forms of contraband. The ship’s primary missions are reflected by its motto: “Rescue, Enforce, Defend.”
One crewmember ensuring Alert lives up to its motto is Chief Warrant Officer Gregory Tarker. Tarker is the cutter’s main propulsion assistant. His duties ensure Alert’s main diesel engines are operating properly and the 16 shipmates in his divisions – known as “main prop” or “auxiliary” – are properly supported and trained.
Tarker’s work is truly behind the scenes and below decks but he is used to being out of the spotlight. Tarker recently reported aboard Alert from just across the pier following a tour as the main propulsion assistant aboard Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast.
In addition to serving as the main propulsion assistant, Tarker is also responsible for a slew of other important duties included the auxiliary division officer, hazardous materials coordinator, safety coordinator, engineering training team leader and a member of Alert’s damage control training team. He is also the only warrant officer attached to Alert and serves as a vital link between the chief’s mess and the wardroom.
The ship’s executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Brian Smicklas, says Tarker is a mentor to both officer and enlisted members of the crew and is “ … fully qualified, highly competent, enthusiastic and dedicated to making Alert an awesome ship and a positive place to work.”
“As the executive officer, I have rarely seen a shipmate arrive and immediately make such a positive impact,” added Smicklas.
In addition to his professional competence in the engine room, Tarker’s most recent achievement has been the 2nd annual Columbia River Cutterman’s Olympics. Tarker coordinated between five area units to put together numerous events based on shipboard skills, including line-throwing competitions, a team chain pull and “gumby” suit and stretcher-bearer races. There was even a chili cook-off, enabling galleys from participating units to showcase their culinary acumen.
Planning the Olympics took significant coordination between crew schedules and competing operational demands but Tarker pulled it off flawlessly.
“There aren’t many opportunities for shipmates to compete in specific skills competitions, but CWO Tarker’s leadership, enthusiasm and oversight made the event a great success,” said Smicklas.
In the end, the men and women aboard Coast Guard Cutter Fir claimed victory at the Olympics. While one of the most coveted prizes that day was bragging rights, the value of working alongside other crews was more significant.
“I didn’t know my shipmates in the Astoria area all too well before the event, but afterwards, I felt that we had created some new bonds,” said Ensign Keriann Mason, a first-year deck watch officer aboard Alert. “While there was definitely an atmosphere of competition, the feeling of camaraderie as a cutterman felt pretty good.”
With the Olympics done, the crew now looks to a deployment. Tarker will be missing out on one of his favorite pastimes but will be busy below decks ensuring Alert is ready to execute Coast Guard missions.
“Although he is understandably upset to miss hunting season again due to being underway – this is his second consecutive Astoria-based medium endurance cutter – his leadership and mentorship have been exemplary. He’s what being a cutterman is all about,” said Smicklas.