Written by Lt. j.g. James Bushman
and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Baker
Years of experience, countless duty stations, and a permanent cutterman insignia aren’t the things that define a leader. From the newest graduate of Cape May to a retiring admiral, every single member of our service is equipped with three simple tools to help guide their ability to lead: Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty. Ens. Gabriel Patterson embodies these traits every day aboard Coast Guard Cutter SPAR, homeported in Kodiak, Alaska.
Like many ensigns, his list of duties is long and various. His primary duty is to serve as a deck watch officer and to supervise the communications and galley divisions. He also serves as assistant security officer, morale officer and education services officer. Additionally, he has put in grueling hours on the buoy deck working toward his rigger or “blue hat” qualification, which is not required for his position. In spite of the long hours at sea, he’s always ready to host morale events in the evening to keep the spirits of SPAR’s crew high.
Despite his wide variety of duties, he qualified in all of his watch stations well ahead of schedule which has enabled him to devote energy towards ensuring his shipmates are taken care of. He‘s always available to lend an ear, offer professional advice or assist in any way possible, regardless of rank or the need.
Patterson’s devotion to others doesn’t stop after he hangs up the uniform and crosses the brow for the night. He volunteers most of his free time as a volunteer firefighter at Kodiak’s Bayside Fire Department where he has devoted over 500 hours there since he began in March 2016, shortly after arriving in Kodiak. At the fire department, Patterson researched and installed a new electronic response system called “iamresponding,” which significantly reduced the department’s response time to emergencies by sending alerts to all on-call fire department members and automatically transmitting maps to a distress call. He then coordinated with the Kodiak Police Dispatch Center, the Kodiak Island Fire Department and the Kodiak Island Borough to link the systems for all four departments to enable clearer and more immediate interagency communication. Both of these initiatives greatly improved the all-volunteer force’s ability to serve the community. Additionally, when SPAR is in port, Patterson is an “on-call” firefighter and has responded to 60 emergency calls ensuring the safety of the Kodiak community and its residents.
A testament to his leadership and commitment, Patterson was recently promoted to a fire department lieutenant after just 10 months of service. In his new role he is responsible for a team of nine emergency responders, the department’s self-contained breathing apparatuses, tool condition and apparatus mechanical tests. For his outstanding contribution to the local community and the positive example he sets for his shipmates, he recently received the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
Patterson is scheduled to depart SPAR and the City of Kodiak this summer, but through his service and initiative his legacy will be felt on the island for years to come.