Written by Seaman Isaac Cross
In a modest office, situated in the heart of the regiment onboard Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, Chief Petty Officer Milton Casey prepares himself for another day of turning today’s volunteers into tomorrow’s Coast Guard men and women. In his office, a pair of perfectly shined boots sit below a wall of mounted company commander covers, and canvas bags with hand-drawn artwork created by previous recruit companies show aggressive and proud depictions of their company commanders. Framed awards adorn the walls and reflect Casey’s 15 years of service and dedication to the U.S. Coast Guard.
This office is like many others in the Coast Guard, however, the responsibility Casey carries as a company commander is very unique.
Casey along with 54 other staff members are responsible for guiding approximately 4,000 recruits annually through a grueling eight-week training program that prepares them for the rigors of the service. The job takes dedication, commitment and most of all, passion. All attributes Casey has an abundance of.
Casey comes from a military family and is a self-described ‘Navy brat’ who moved frequently from duty station to duty station. One thing that stabilized Casey through those years was his love of sports as he always gravitated to the local baseball teams and wrestling programs in his area. As he grew up, his love of sports outweighed his interest in academics and as he finished high school he realized he wasn’t quite ready for college life.
With no desire to immediately continue his education, Casey was faced with a decision.
Casey decided to join the Coast Guard and in April 2004 he arrived at the Training Center in Cape May and began his journey with specific goals in mind. He wanted to serve his country, learn some responsibility and become a boatswain’s mate helping to save the lives of mariners in distress. It wasn’t until 2012 that Casey saw an opportunity that would enable him to make a major impact on the service as a whole.
Casey was accepted to Company Commander School after a comprehensive interview process and underwent what amounts to ‘boot camp 2.0’. Company Commander School is a seven-week long basic training with a focus on leadership and is considered one of the most difficult special assignments in the service. His proven track record of dedication to the task at hand ensured he completed the training and earned his right to wear the wide-brimmed company commander cover that is universally recognized by military members as a symbol of respect, and leadership, and for recruits, fear.
Casey ran companies from 2012 to 2016, ending his tenure on the regiment and embarking on his new assignment at Coast Guard Cutter Cleat. When the opportunity to re-apply for the company commander job became available again, Casey couldn’t resist.
Cmdr. Jed Young, the training center’s regimental officer, remembered Casey’s hard work and dedication while assigned to the Training Center years before.
“Casey’s first tour was highly successful,” Young said. “He ran more companies than any other company commander on the regiment and experience is extremely important on the regiment.”
When Casey re-applied for the position, the command at the training center was more than happy to have him back.
“Casey was hand-picked to be a company commander instructor,” said Young. “Primarily because of his devotion to recruits and his shipmates.”
Casey loved the work, and said, “I became a company commander and through all my tours, this has been the best job.”
What drives Casey the most is the satisfaction he gets from being a positive influence on new recruits.
“I have a passion for teaching younger people and I think it’s neat to see them grow up,” Casey said. “Coming through these gates I considered myself a child, but through the Coast Guard I was shown how to set my priorities and was given the opportunity to see what’s really important.”
This strong sense of work ethic is not just reserved for his work at the training center. Casey regularly volunteers to help those in need through his local church, by coaching sports in the community and helping to better communities through various projects.
Casey spearheaded a project through his local church that assisted in building a school in Boyer, Haiti.
In cooperation with Reciprocal Ministries International, an organization whose mission is to help develop partnerships across cultural boundaries within church communities, Casey leads a team of fellow churchgoers to Boyer every year with the goal of helping to enhance their community.
“I’ve been involved with RMI for about five years,” said Casey. “I am the coordinator for the community of Boyer and we sponsor kids in the school.”
These visits create a connection that Casey takes to heart.
“The coolest part about this is that we see these kids all the time. It’s a real relationship,” he said.
In addition to helping build a school, he also worked to collect enough money to ensure that every child who attends the school in Boyer is able to receive a hot meal for lunch.
Pete Esposito, a member of Casey’s church, said, “If there’s a need out there, he’s someone who’s going to take it on. He’s got his heart in something so positive it makes you wonder what more you can do yourself.”
In his own community, Casey and his wife started a not-for-profit gym called Cross Lifters.
“Cross Lifters was three years in the making,” Casey said. “It started in my garage and is now in a 3,000 square-foot building.”
Cross Lifters is a free community fitness area with no agenda and no strings attached.
“It’s something God put in our hearts to do, so we did it,” Casey said.
When asked what drives his sense of volunteerism, his point of view was simple.
“Why do I do this? Because, why not?”
That simple statement, ‘why not’, sums up Casey’s outlook on life. Why not help people become the best versions of themselves? Why not do the right things, even when no one is looking? Why not strive to be better every day?
As if on-cue, Casey notices recruits just outside his office window talking to one another while walking across the regiment. Anyone familiar with military basic training knows that this is the type of behavior that draws unwanted attention from company commanders like Casey.
Casey stands from his desk and gives his fellow company commanders a double-thumbs up before he purposely replaces the grin on his face with a stern scowl as if he’s stepping into character.
He opens the window and captures the recruit’s attention by yelling, “Stop!” His voice echoes off the buildings across the regiment. The recruits immediately comply and Casey begins to counsel them on the proper military bearing and the importance of following orders.
For Casey, this is where he finds purpose. For him, it’s another opportunity to shape the future of his beloved service and instill the core values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty onto the next generation of Coast Guard members.