Just off U.S. Highway 1, 87 miles north of Key West sits Coast Guard Station Islamorada. Adjacent to Snake Creek, the unit’s surrounding turquoise waters and rows of sky-high palm trees present an illusory appearance. Islamorada looks like the perfect place to take a vacation, but with dozens of go-fast interdictions, 200 search and rescue cases and 600 recreational boating safety inspections annually, Islamorada’s crew doesn’t have time for rest and relaxation.
Station Islamorada is a multi-mission unit with a challenging area of responsibility spanning from Long Key to the South West, Biscayne Bay to the North East, and to Flamingo Florida to the North West. The unit conducts an array of Coast Guard missions daily, from aids to navigation to protecting marine resources.
The station is multi-mission and so too are its engineers. Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Costello, a machinery technician, has displayed superb leadership, professional abilities and devotion to duty while serving as the assistant engineering petty officer at Islamorada.
Costello is an exemplary boat engineer who maintains a high level of performance across the spectrum of missions performed by Station Islamorada and nowhere was his dedication more apparent than his commitment to ensuring the station remained ready for operations. In the months leading up to the unit’s ready for operations inspection, Costello developed a comprehensive work list and oversaw the correction of 160 boat discrepancies.
Costello doesn’t just excel on his own, however, and ensures his fellow engineers uphold high standards as well. Due to his commitment in mentoring junior members, both the material condition of the unit’s assets and written examination results during the unit inspection were the highest the station received in the last six inspections.
Costello’s excellence isn’t isolated just to fixing the boats and he often heads out on the water for various missions. In fact, Costello led all engineers at the unit with more than 400 underway hours logged on the unit’s small boats. Costello is also a boarding officer and pursuit boat crewmember.
One of his more notable cases was the detection and apprehension of a vessel and its crew after they attempted to create an illegal lobster habitat by placing an altered bathtub in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. He assisted in determining the coordinates of the bathtub; stopped and held the subject vessel and its passengers; and coordinated the transfer of the vessel, suspects and evidence to officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection. His efforts allowed the state attorney’s office to pursue felony charges against the subjects.
Costello’s performance has not gone unnoticed and he was recently awarded the 2012 Fireman First Class Paul Clark Boat Forces Engineering Award. This annual award recognizes an exemplary Coast Guard boat engineer who demonstrated sustained superior performance, proficiency and leadership. His contributions to Islamorada’s operations is a standard to emulate for boat forces professionals throughout the service.
Beginning with the sentinels of the United States Lighthouse Service, the United States Coast Guard has served the citizens of the upper keys continuously since 1873. Costello ensures this legacy lives on, while keeping the assets running in perfect condition.