With more than six months until the commissioning the Coast Guard’s new Fast Response Cutter, Joseph Tezanos, the crew is hard at work preparing for the cutters arrival.
With nearly every member of the pre-commissioning crew attending specialized training and temporary assignments on other Fast Response Cutters to prepare for the receipt of the cutter, it can be difficult to bring the crew together to accomplish a common mission – something they will need to do every day once the cutter arrives.
To help foster this team building environment, Lt. Nicholas Herndon, commanding officer, issued a challenge to his senior crewmembers: find a series of projects that the crew could participate in to enhance their opportunities to work together as a team.
And within days, the ideas pitched to Herndon all had a common theme: volunteering in the local community of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
One of the first volunteer efforts completed by the crew took them to a local battered women and children’s shelter, the FourHearts Organization.
“They are working on a project called ‘Hogar En-Hacore’ and they are putting together what will eventually become a shelter,” Herndon said. “It’s mostly been a lot of manual labor – a lot of landscaping-type things – it was very overgrown when we showed up to the place.”
Among those crewmembers participating in the volunteer work is Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Stous, a food service specialist who is no stranger to helping out local communities.
“It means a lot to me – I try to [volunteer] every chance I get,” he said. “Just individuals helping out other individuals – that’s the reason why I do it. It’s a really great team building experience.”
Stous’ volunteer spirit is carried throughout the rest of the crew as well, as each crewmember who has participated in the volunteer work has truly enjoyed the opportunity to give back to the local community.
“It just goes to show that we already work together well as a team,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Andres, a gunner’s mate assigned to the Tezanos. “Once we get out there and we actually have a mission, I feel it will be more of the same.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Kyle Oconnell, a boatswain’s mate, agrees with that sentiment.
“Us being able to go out and bond and see how everybody works and what different personalities are, what works for each other out there, is going to help us as a crew on the cutter,” he said. “
And while gaining experience working together as a team is a significant benefit, the benefits to the FourHearts organization are second to none.
“We are so extremely blessed by these generous people,” said Danica Zanetti, one of the organizers at FourHearts. “They cleared out over-run landscaping, broken-up tile floors, pressure washed, painted and have done various other projects in just two weeks. This work that is being done in so important and it’s our pleasure to share that with others who want to become involved. The Coast Guard community here is so amazing about supporting others. It’s the perfect resource for helping open Hogar En-Hacore.”
Looking forward, Herndon and the rest of his crew have a myriad of volunteer activities planned, ranging from beach clean-ups to more time with the FourHearts organization.
Throughout all the work put in by the crew, Herndon definitely feels as though the crew has met his original intent of creating team building activities in which the name of Joseph Tezanos becomes a community staple.
“It’s definitely helped out getting people to know each other,” he said. “We have people from all walks of life, from any given Coast Guard unit, and to get that initial team spirit going, this has definitely been a benefit. We’ve done a good job at getting the Tezanos name out.”