By Adm. Karl Schultz, Commandant of the Coast Guard
The theme for the 2020 State of the Coast Guard Address is “Why I Serve,” which highlights the individual motivations each of us have to serve in the world’s best Coast Guard. Some of us joined to travel, some for college, some to save lives, and some for the adventures of military service.
No matter the motivation, our people come from every corner of society and bring with them individual experiences as diverse as our Nation. Each person’s unique skills and backgrounds are vital to our missions, and we wanted to capture the importance of that diversity during the State of the Coast Guard.
In the Coast Guard introduction video I shared, you met six outstanding Coast Guard men and women who did extraordinary things for our Nation, sometimes at great risk or personal sacrifice.
We all may be different, but we are all bound to service by our Core Values and share a common purpose of life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice. These are the stories behind the State of the Coast Guard:
Ensign Robert DiRado, Coast Guard Cutter James: During James’s most recent deployment, the crew interdicted a low-profile vessel (LPV), a stealthy craft built for drug smuggling. The cutter’s armed helicopter crew from Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron shot out the engines of the drug-laden LPV. Ensign DiRado led a team from Cutter James to apprehend the suspects. However, once on scene, they realized the suspects’ boat was sinking. They quickly rescued the alleged smugglers and developed a plan to slow the flooding long enough to preserve critical evidence for criminal prosecution in the U.S. and salvage the deadly narcotics before the LPV sank.
Lt. Cmdr. Karen Kutkiewicz, Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star: Each holiday season, the crew of the Polar Star, our Nation’s only heavy icebreaker, depart home in Seattle for Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica. This annual military operation to re-supply the U.S. science station at McMurdo protects our national interests in the region. Lt. Cmdr. Kutkiewicz, the cutter’s operations officer, leaves behind her husband and two young children in order to help safely navigate the cutter through walls of ice up to 21-feet thick. However, after their five-month deployment to Antarctica, the crew sails the icebreaker into a six-month dry dock, which is usually hundreds of miles from Seattle, extending their separation from loved ones. Polar Star crewmembers, like Lt. Cmdr. Kutkiewicz, sacrifice so much for our Nation.
Fireman Haoer Zheng, Coast Guard Cutter Stratton: When Fireman Zheng enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in 2018, she never envisioned that her Mandarin Chinese speaking skills would have international impact.But just months after graduating boot camp, the fireman played a key role aboard Stratton enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolutions against illicit ship-to-ship transfers that violate sanctions against Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In the Coast Guard, our valued junior members make outsized impacts on globally strategic missions.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Emily Ford, Operations Bahamas, Turks, and Caicos: At the center of our Hurricane Dorian response, Petty Officer Ford played a vital role coordinating logistics and triage for helicopter crews responding in the storm’s wake. SK2 Ford was described as the “connective tissue” between OPBAT Bahamas, the aircrews, and Bahamian authorities. She went above and beyond all expectations enabling the rescue of hundreds and impacting many more lives.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Newberg, Air Station Savannah: The world watched as four crewmembers emerged from being trapped in the Merchant Vessel GOLDEN RAY after it ran aground in Brunswick, Georgia, and heeled over on its port side. What many do not know is that a brave U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer, Petty Officer Newberg, was lowered to that listing, burning vessel in the dark of night to save the vessel’s captain and pilot, who were trapped in the bridge. AST2 fashioned a rope out of a firehose to reach the two men. Using the firehose, he assisted the pilot out the port bridge wing to awaiting Coast Guard rescue boats, and then lowered the firehose to GOLDEN RAY’s captain, who was trapped 30 feet below the bridge access, and pulled him to safety.
Fireman Hawkins, Coast Guard Cutter Seneca: Fireman Hawkins risked entanglement in fishing nets and debris to save a man clinging to the hull of a sinking 160-foot fishing vessel 335 miles southeast of Clipperton Island in the Pacific Ocean. The fishing vessel MARUJITA capsized during a routine boarding by the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca sending 24 fishermen and 12 Coast Guardsmen in the water. SENECA’s small boat recovered the boarding team and 24 crewmembers. However, the boatcrew could not reach an angler left clinging to the hull due to the debris. The crew deployed Fireman Hawkins, the cutter’s rescue swimmer, who pulled the man to safety.
For more amazing Coast Guard stories, tune into the State of the Coast Guard Address Thursday, Feb. 20, at 1300 Eastern on www.uscg.mil/AlwaysReadyor the U.S. Coast Guard Facebook page.