Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Katelyn Shearer
When something in your house breaks, whom do you call?
If you’re fortunate enough to be sailing on Coast Guard Cutter Active, a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Port Angeles, Washington, you call one person – Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Wenzel.
Wenzel is one of only two damage controlmen currently assigned to Active. He is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the ship and all of its onboard damage control and firefighting systems.
“I like being the go-to guy when something breaks,” said Wenzel. “Any task from a little tiny thing to a big project helps the crew.”
With a full crew on a 50-year-old cutter that is out at sea for half the year, there is never a shortage of things to fix.
“I wanted to be assigned to a cutter because I was told that’s where you learn everything,” he said. “My favorite part of being underway is there’s no excuse not to get any work done.”
In addition to repairing items as needed, Wenzel is responsible for maintaining all of the cutter’s damage control and firefighting equipment.
While out at sea, a fire or ruptured pipe can mean disaster for Active and its crew. Wenzel completes weekly, monthly and annual inspections of equipment including fire pumps, fire hoses, fire extinguishers, drains, valves, pipes, hatches, seals and a countless number of others. He completes these inspections largely on his own because the position of his direct supervisor is currently vacant.
“From damage control training and cutter corrosion prevention, to firefighting protection system maintenance, Petty Officer Wenzel brilliantly handles all tasks thrown his way,” said Lt. j.g. Vanessa Taylor, Active’s damage control assistant. “He has shown superior leadership stepping up to complete tasks that would otherwise be reserved for someone above his pay grade.”
Damage control and shipboard firefighting skills are a requirement for all cutter crews. Within six months of arrival, every newly reported person must pass a written, oral and practical examination of their ability to respond during an emergency situation. Since reporting to Active in October of 2013, Wenzel has assisted in qualifying more than 25 new crewmembers.
“I like helping people and training people,” said Wenzel. “Everybody comes to me when they have a question about the boat.”
Wenzel’s extensive knowledge and dedication to his craft is paying off. He is currently above the cut for advancement to Petty Officer 2nd Class and was recently selected to attend the National Association of Corrosion Engineer’s coating and corrosion inspector school, a civilian course that trains students how to protect metals and treat corrosion.
“Petty Officer Wenzel works diligently and with a positive attitude, inspiring those around him and those who work for him,” said Taylor. “He is one of the hardest working crewmen aboard the cutter and I feel grateful to have been able to work alongside him.”
Whether you need something fixed, inspected or its operation explained, Wenzel is your one-stop shop for answers and advice with a friendly smile.