Semper Paratus

[from the stabenow.com vaults, first posted February 7, 2004]

Turns out Ops officer Scott Littlefield wasn’t wrong about the weather, he was just a little previous. We got ours, 30 knot winds and fifteen foot seas, but I have to say, Petty Officer Frank Brown was right when he called the Alex Haley a Cadillac. This is a nice ride, heavy seas or not.

Passing Cutter - 2/11/04

This morning we were heading north when we got a call about a possible SAR in Akutan, where someone needed a medevac. The bridge got crowded like it does when there is an event and the aviators and the officers discussed ways and means. They decided they could launch if they had to, but in the end the Akutan people decided to put the sick guy on a boat and get him to Dutch Harbor that way.

Think about this for a minute. Here is a 282-foot cutter with 100 crew and a helo with two aviators, one swimmer and two mechanics, ready to go to the aid of one sick guy in the opposite direction of their patrol. The wind is howling, the sea is crashing across the bow, the visibility is lousy, and there is the added bonus of a hurricane force storm (that’s what it said on the NOAA map) blowing in from the exact direction the SAR will take us.

I’m listening to these guys and there is a steadily building scream in the back of my head which goes something like, Are you out of your MINDS?!! I’m thinking this guy in Akutan isn’t that sick. I’m thinking he’s probably a hypochondriac with indigestion. I’m thinking he chose to live in Akutan, he could have chosen to live in Anchorage an ambulance away from all the medical attention he needs. I’m thinking I’ve never been in the middle of a hurricane before, and I’m thinking I should go below and put on my float coat and double my dose of Dramamine.

I’m thinking this might be the last time I see aviator Lts. Leary and Eason.

But this is it, this is why they are here, this is what they do. I think they are actually disappointed when they don’t get to respond.

When Captain Lloyd wrote to tell me that I could go on this patrol with the Alex Haley, I wrote back and told him I’d try not to gush but that I was very excited. He wrote back four words: “You will be amazed”.

I am.

The most amazing thing is that everyone on board thinks this is just a job. But the first thing Chief Alice Jamison asked me when I went below was, “What happened with that SAR?”. She’s not just the mess chief here, she’s part of the SAR team. They all are. The captain tells me that many Coasties have relatives who are nurses, and they join the Coast Guard because they’ve been raised by those who help people and save lives.

Pretty damn impressive bunch of people. I haven’t asked but I’m betting we don’t pay them enough.

More about today’s photo: The rest of the officers are in the galley behind the captain and lieutenant commander, up to their ears in pepperoni. So is Motley Crue. Next Saturday it will be the petty officers’ turn to cook and, oh god, go for the Pepto Bismol, I’ll be with them.


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