AECS Tom Wynn U.S. Coast Guard (Ret) (1972-1992)
Service Reflections is US Coast Guardsman:
AECS Tom Wynn
U.S. Coast Guard (Ret)
PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE COAST GUARD?
My father was in the Coast Guard. He asked me at 12 what I wanted to do for a living when I was grown up. I didn’t know at the time. He quickly said, “You better now, you only have a few more years to prepare”. So he began to ask me questions about what I like to do or learn. I told him several things like science and physics and electricity. Electronics like he did, (he was a AT1) and survival interests, like in the Boy Scouts. So he told me of all the rates that I might look at in the Coast Guard. I was set on ASM but it was not available to me at the time of choosing a class A school when I applied from my ship, the USCGC RUSH in CA. I was 17.5 years old when I joined and picked the Rush. If I had to go to sea I wanted to go on the biggest and best vessel type the Coast Guard had to offer. Later I would go on two Ice Breakers, one being the Polar Sea voyage to Antarctica in 1978. I went to AE school in Jacksonville Florida at the Naval Air Station. One of the last classes to go there before they moved it to Memphis. So I became an AE and was so glad of it. I enjoyed my career and loved the Coast Guard. My son was a third generation Coastie.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?
Boot Camp in CA. USCGC Rush for 5.5 months. AE A school in Naval Air Jax in Florida. Mobile Alabama Air Station for two parts, the Air Station and Pop-Div for a total of 4 years. Air Station Houston 3 years. ARSC 3 years. Air Station Detroit 3 years. Air Station San Francisco 2 years. Air Station Clearwater 3 years and finally just prior to retirement, CG unit at Panama City Florida for approximately 4 months before retirement. I was senior to the Senior Chief in charge so he sent me home and I only came to work to do paperwork for retirement and complete my terminal leave of 85 days. Loved it!
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
USCGC RUSH, not to fond of that. I was a Seaman and it was in CA. I was only 17. 5 years old. I was the second youngest person aboard. I was married and was a very sharp individual. So I only did 5.5 months aboard the vessel before departing for AE A school in Florida. Air Station Mobile Alabama. Including Pop Div. Polar Shipboard Ops Division. I ran the Battery Shop and the Tool Room was my first assignments. My mentors were my father AT1 T.W. Wynn Sr. a great man and lovely soul. AE1 John Reid, AE1 Buckmaster all has passed away now. AE2 Smokey Stover, Who I later replaced at Air Sta Clearwater when we were both Senior Chiefs. He was retiring and I retired three years later. I was Maintenance Chief there and later became the CEA of the Air Station for the last 2.5 years of my Great Career. I loved my work, helping the men and women I served with. I enjoyed my jobs in the Coast Guard and I departed very happy and full of joy I could finally see my dream of retirement at 20 at the door. That was nearly 20 years ago now. Time flies when you are having a good retirement life. Thank you LORD!! The Coast Guard is one on the Best jobs in the World. Saving lives for a living is the way to go.
Next I went to Air Station Houston and learned how to be a good mechanic and Electrician on the HH52A and my mentor there was Buckmaster again and AT1 B. Fletcher, who would follow me to Elizabeth City NC. We are still friends today. ARSC was my next stop. I loved it there, so many friends and mentors. AM1 Mark Sheafer, AD1 Jimmy Taylor and a few others where my best buddies on the HH52A QA team. just loved it there. Made Chief and off to Detroit. Hated! But I did take the time to get more education there and studied on how to retire as a young man. Freezing cold, nothing else to do. All indoor life, but the housing “Sucked”, sorry but there is no other way to say it. Air Station San Francisco. Love it there, had to go there for my son. He needed a heart operation. Great time there and love every minute of it. Great people to work with and I made Senior Chief. I wrote the number one test on the first try and made it in March. Only had three years until retirement. Off to Clearwater we went. I was happy all around. I really wanted Mobile. But oh well, God had other plans. I had a great tour there and off to Retirement. God’s Country North Florida. We have been here every since.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?
Too many to count brothers. Love my career 96 percent of the time. Great job and lovely hard working folks to be with, blood swear and tears came often as I moved from place to place, ship to ship, Air Station to Air Station. Lost a few shipmates over the years in Helo crashes. But over all, a great 20 year tour of love and kindness from all my co-workers. I loved my pilots and my crews. Everyone had a common goal. Save lives for a living. No better thing to do in this world. God Bless the US Coast Guard and their families. Love you!
WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER?
Yes, I earned an Air Metal in Houston TX in 1980 for saving over 20 Seamen in Galveston Bay that were aboard two exploding ships that ran into each other in the night. Two helos went out, 26 saved, about 21 by my crew and the rest by the CO and his crew who came later at day break. It was a very big case. All of us got Air Metals. The Unit received a Unit Commendation ribbon, well deserved. I had two of the best pilots on board Air Station Houston at the time. Cobb and Kilgore. A Great team wonderful officers and sharp pilots. I was so proud of them that night. The ships exploding in our faces as we continued to search for the two ships crew on the ships and in the water.
I think over 25 died that night from the exploding vessels. So hot! Burning oil everywhere. I could feel the explosions on my skin and face. Our helo was within a few hundred feet from the exploding ship when it went off a second time in the mid section. We saved two men who were about to jump into the fire just below their feet. They could not swim and the ship steal was melting their shoes. I took them off the hand railing just as they were about to jump I swung the basket to them and they made a leap of faith to the basket. I quickly took them in and went for more. Over and over again I rescued three and four at a time. They were tiny men so the weight limit of the hoist was not reached. What a night that was. So much more. I wrote the story down a few years ago, so I could make the dreams go away. It worked. Thank the Lord.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
My CEA badge. I spent my second half of my Coast Guard career to help my fellow Coasties. I found that time in my career to be the best for me. I was CEA for 5 commanding officers at three units. My best times were when I was able to save several careers and get help for several Coasties that needed Alcohol Rehab. They came back new men and went on to complete their careers in honorable conditions. I only lost one, he refused help and was forced out by the medical department and Admin for refusing treatment. Sad but true. He had 26 years of good service to the Coast Guard. He was drunk on duty with an out of sight BAC. His liver test showed he was the walking dead. He need help but refused it. The Coast Guard at that time was just beginning to see they had created these monsters with Beer Busts and parties. And then wanted to boot them out without help after they had served a long life of service to their country. I was not having it. I created a new type of program to help these folks. I was given an Achievement Medal for it just before I departed the service. I had good commands and they backed me 100 percent. The Chief’s Academy in California gave me the tools I needed to fight the system and win. What a great education that was. Thanks guys. The Academy is one of the finest schools I went to in my time in the CG.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
My father of course. He was my mentor and my dad and my friend until his death about 5 years ago now. Loved that man. He was a great leader in the Coast Guard. For years and years men came up to me and told me my father was a good man and a great mentor for them too. I was very proud of his service in the Navy and the Coast Guard. He did 6 years in the Navy before going to Bible College and finally in the Coast Guard where he retired with honors as an AT1. Nearly making Chief and Warrant several times. They didn’t rate them back then, the late 60 early and mid 70’s as easily as they do now. All his friends are died now too. They were wonderful men of the Coast Guard and hard working generations. They loved saving lives and vessels for a living too. Fine men and women have served our nation in the Coast Guard. We should be proud of our service to this nation. As time goes on, our children and grandchildren will do the same and make us proud to be in the Coast Guard family.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Just to many to count. There was some crazy folks in those days. You would never get away with those things today. They would be out on their ear today for sure. In those days, Vietnam era, things were overlooked. We needed people and lots of them. LOL! Old birds of the 60’s and 70’s. It was time for them to go, before they really got into trouble. It was fun and funny at the time. Air Station Mobile was an amazing place to be stationed as a young man. Crazy guys at the time. It was a wonder we made it. hahahahahaha!!
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
I went on to have several businesses, including owning my own local newspaper and an electronic repair business for 9 years. I am presently a missionary to Romania and write theological papers and books. I worked as a Teacher and a Drug and Alcohol counselor at the largest prison in the state of Florida. I have traveled to many countries since retirement. I have been to 23 countries and 46 states in the past 50 years.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
It made me the man I am today. I would not trade my life in the Coast Guard as a serviceman and as a serviceman’s son for anything. I have had a wonderful life. It was do to the training and love I enjoyed in the Coast Guard and being part of the CG family and friends. May God continue to Bless the Coast Guard and their duties of life saving and protecting this nations seas and shores. I am in involved in the Mission field, traveling, Bible Conferences, Beekeeping, Selling Tupelo honey and just enjoying my 6 grandchildren. Writing books and Bible Articles. Life is good!
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE COAST GUARD?
Plan now for your retirement. Read on how to retire and invest now before you depart the service. Find out about VA benefits. Get Educated now. Copy your records and med records NOW!!! Do not sign the DD214 until it is perfectly correct. Never leave the service until you are ready to truly retire and enjoy life. If you need to work, stay there, work hard and advance! Never stay past 26 years. Percentages say you will not live long past your retirement date. Find something you like to do now and practice it, learn about it, study it.
Give to your family the love they need now, before you lose them. Retirement is no fun without your family to enjoy it with. Go to school ASAP immediately after retirement and learn a new trade or build on the one you have if you want to work more. Think FREEDOM! You will never have to punch that clock again if you PLAN AHEAD! Remember this one thing above all, you saved lives for a living, there is no greater job than this. From the Yeoman in the office to the Seaman on the boats to the crew in the air, we all make it possible to save lives and property for the US Coast Guard. Be proud of your labor. It is honorable and lovely and good. Be of good cheer and love the Lord. He loves you.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
New to this site. I am sure I will enjoy it. Thanks for putting it up. Great job!
Senior Chief Tom Wynn, Jr.