This blog post is the third of a series that will come from enlisted leadership to highlight the mentors who molded them into who they are today. The blog series will be published the first Wednesday of every month, right here on Coast Guard All Hands.
Written by Command Master Chief Jeff Patton, Deputy Commandant for Operations
It was early spring 1989. I had been in the Coast Guard about two-and-a-half years and I was at my second unit, Aids to Navigation Team (ANT) Grand Haven, Mich., when the new BMC reported and there was a change of command.
To a young 20-year-old like myself, the new Chief looked seasoned and, well, let’s say distinguished. When I learned he had originally joined in 1965 – before we put stripes on our cutters in what I now consider the Old Guard – I knew why. Anyway, with the ceremony complete, my tutelage under Chief Jimmie Andrews began.
At the time, ANT Grand Haven had just eight crew members. The MK1 was both the XPO and the EPO. The only Boatswain’s Mates there were Chief Andrews and me, a young BM3. Being a small unit, everyone knew everyone well and Chief Andrews took interest in his whole crew. However, I always felt he took a particular interest in me and my development as a Boatswain’s Mate.
Chief Andrews wasn’t an overbearing Chief, but he sure knew how to get his point across when he wanted to. I remember one time when our Fireman forgot to close the front hatch over the berthing area on our 46-foot buoy boat and it rained hard that night. I was helping dry up the compartment the next morning when I saw a shadow over the open hatch. I looked up and saw Chief Andrews looking at me with a straight face. He said, “Boats, you’re responsible for this vessel.” He didn’t need to say anything more. I felt like I had let him down and that is something I did not want to do. The hatch was never left open again, nor did we have any more carelessness like that. Being the good Chief he was, he never held that against me. My tutelage continued.
During his first spring buoy run he got underway with us every day so he could learn our operation area and see how his new crew performed. I believe he also enjoyed the camaraderie, and as I remember it, we had a great time. He took part in all facets of the job, from buoy positioning to working on the buoy deck, to driving that old 46-foot buoy boat with its unique drive system (for those who have operated that boat type, you know what I mean). He may have made a suggestion here and there, but otherwise he let the crew do their work and did not micromanage. More importantly to me, he helped further my limited navigation skills. By the end of the buoy run, I believe I had gained his full trust.
Chief Andrews not only took interest in our careers, but also in our day-to-day lives. He was always willing to stop what he was doing and talk to someone about a personal matter. I don’t think anyone ever hesitated to go to Chief Andrews about something, but when they did, they went with the respect he deserved and he gave the same respect back. I know everyone appreciated it. Also, true to his nature, he just liked to shoot the breeze and tell a good sea story.
Chief Andrews was usually a patient man, but his patience could be tested when someone stuck their nose in where it didn’t belong. However, he genuinely cared about his crew and everything that was going on. I remember when I finally passed my navigation rules test after several attempts. I never saw anyone happier than Chief Andrews. He could have said, “It’s about time,” but instead he came to morning muster with a smile on his face proclaiming I had a perfect score. He was proud of me, which made me feel proud, too.
Even though he is long retired I still call him Chief. I had a chance to visit him a few years back and reminisce about old times face-to-face. I am proud to have served with Chief Andrews and to have adopted some of his leadership skills to help shape my own, as well as shape my desire to be a Chief. Thanks for being a “Chief,” Chief.
“Master Chief Patton and I stay in touch to this day,” said Chief Andrews. “I have followed his career through four Officer-In-Charge jobs and three Command Master Chief positions. I am happy to have been a part in his professional development and I’m glad he feels I was a positive influence to help him along the way. I guess you don’t always realize how much of an impact you have on someone’s life and career until later down the road. I was always impressed with his work ethic and enthusiasm. To see him go from BM3 to where he is now makes me proud. To know I had some part in that is an honor.”