Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross
Sunlight shines down across American Legion Freedom Riders lining the roadside, flagstaffs in hand, as a succession of American flags whisk in the wind. Red coats of the Port Angeles Ambassadors create a vibrant contrast amongst the crowd of Coast Guard active duty, Coast Guard Auxiliary and local community members, as they wait in preparation for what’s to come.
Perched atop the stairs of the Museum at the Carnegie entrance, Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Jenkins, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Station Port Angeles, Washington, looks out across the museum lawn from behind a podium, a jubilant glow in his eyes, as he announces the latest addition to the museum.
The “U.S. Coast Guard-An Era of History and Heroism” exhibit, which highlights more than 150 years of Coast Guard history in Clallam County, encompasses Jenkins’ passions for history and for the Coast Guard, as well as his thirst for knowledge and outstanding drive toward devotion to duty.
This ambitious path started in Jenkins’ youth.
“As a Sea Cadet, I spent time with Station Los Angeles/Long Beach and enjoyed riding on the small boats,” he said. “So I wanted a job where I could be at a small boat station.”
Jenkins joined the Coast Guard in 2000, pursuing his passion for small boats and a boatswain’s mate career.
During his 15 years of service, he has been assigned to two Coast Guard cutters, three stations, a marine safety unit and a marine safety detachment. His next step will be reporting to Officer Candidate School July 29.
Jenkins has always had a passion for history.
He and his parents used to visit the Castle Air Museum in Atwater, California. The tradition grew into visiting various museums throughout his life, including the Museum of Flight in Seattle and the Smithsonian in D.C.
One of these museums was the Museum at the Carnegie in Port Angeles.
It was during a visit to the museum last year that the idea of including a Coast Guard exhibit sprung to mind, and the 80th anniversary of Air Station Port Angeles presented an ideal opportunity to do just that.
Jenkins worked in conjunction with members of the Clallam County Historical Society, and with the help of Coast Guard active duty, retired and Auxiliary members, brought his idea to fruition.
There he stood, with a giant pair of scissors in hand, he cut the red ribbon and invited the community to experience the culmination of his endeavor.
During the creation of the exhibit, Jenkins heard various stories and tidbits related to both local and Coast Guard history.
“There are a lot of good stories, but I think my favorite was learning of an unconfirmed report of a Confederate plot to steal the Shubrick,” said Jenkins. The Coast Guard’s presence in Port Angeles began with the arrival of the Shubrick, the first steam-powered lighthouse tender, Aug. 1, 1862.
Jenkins’ day was far from over when the opening festivities came to a close.
“I was recalled to the station for a search and rescue case involving three overdue kayakers,” Jenkins said. “The area they were located was experiencing 30 knot winds, and the boatcrew needed a heavy weather coxswain board.”
A helicopter crew from the adjoining Coast Guard air station located the first kayaker, while Jenkins’ boat crew was able to locate the second.
“He was unresponsive and I began CPR along with my engineer, and transported him to the John Wayne Marina,” he said. “After we were relieved by EMS, we went back out to search for the third person.”
An assisting Navy helicopter crew located the third missing kayaker.
Once all three kayakers had been recovered and transferred to medical personnel, Jenkins’ boatcrew recovered two of the kayaks, with an unsuccessful search for the third, before finally returning to the station.
That single day showcased the high level of devotion and dedication that shines through all of Jenkins’ endeavors.
An outstanding drive reflects throughout the exhibit he worked so hard to bring about, as well as in the display items that call to mind the exceptional efforts and actions of Coast Guard members past.
As for those interested in taking on a similar project, Jenkins advised, “Don’t be afraid to do something you are passionate about.”
Words of wisdom to further fuel the ambitions of future Coast Guard leaders.