Coast Guard Reflections

Service Reflections of ETC James Fort, Jr., U.S. Coast Guard (1972-1992)

Service Reflections of ETC James Fort, Jr., U.S. Coast Guard (1972-1992)

My dad was the major influence on my joining the Coast Guard. He was part of a forward Army recon unit that was captured at the Battle of the Bulge after expanding all their ammunition. His unit was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, and he earned a Bronze Star for his actions there. My dad also fought in the Korean war earning awards for his actions there.

The Army was going to send him off to Vietnam when that conflict started, and he opted to retire with twenty-three years of service at that time. My dad thought that Vietnam was a war run by politicians instead of Generals and convinced me that the Coast Guard was the best service to go into. Of course, neither of us knew at the time that there were more Coasties killed (percentage-wise) in WWII and the Vietnam war than any other service.

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Service Reflections of BM1 Alvin O’Brien, U.S. Coast Guard (1996-2012)

Service Reflections of BM1 Alvin O’Brien, U.S. Coast Guard (1996-2012)

I had graduated high school and had no desire to continue my education. I started working in the “Chemical Plants” for a 3rd party contractor. After about three months, I was laid off. I told myself this was not the life for me to live.

I looked at the Armed Services, more particularly the Air Force. My dad mentioned the USCG, and I said who? He said USCG. I see them guys drive boats up and down the Houston Ship Channel all the time and issue tickets for missing bolts on flanges over the water. So we decided to see a recruiter. When he showed me the recruiting video of a 44 MLB crashing through the surf, I said that is what I want to do. He said sign here, and the rest is history.

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Service Reflections of MKCS George III Shoffstall , U.S. Coast Guard (1973-1994)

Service Reflections of MKCS George III Shoffstall , U.S. Coast Guard (1973-1994)

I had every intention of joining the U.S. Navy as an enlisted man after HS graduation. I didn’t have the grades to entertain the academy appointment process. My father and his two brothers voluntarily enlisted in the Navy at the outset of the Korean Conflict in 1950. Two served on New Jersey class battleships, and my father trained as an Aviation Electricians mate assigned to a tactical squadron in country.

My aspirations took a slight course change in the spring of my senior year. One day I received a long-distance call from a friend and former classmate. He had been looking into joining the Coast Guard after graduation and mentioned maybe enlisting as teammates in what was called the buddy program. Being a kid from central PA, I hadn’t heard or even considered the CG.

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Service Reflections of ET2 Alan Spielman, U.S. Coast Guard (1979-1988)

Service Reflections of ET2 Alan Spielman, U.S. Coast Guard (1979-1988)

I was interested in electronics but found it difficult to work 8 hours, go to school 8 hours, and study at least 4 hours a day, and I burnt out. I researched all the services and found the Coast Guard electronic technicians trained on everything, and they only specialized between aircraft and all others.

So I joined to get electronics school where I could work on everything from small boats to large cutters, buoy tenders, ice breakers, Loran (long-range aids to navigation), lighthouses, shore stations, communication stations, and remote aids/high sites.

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Service Reflections of ET2 David Hendrick, U.S. Coast Guard (1960-1964)

Service Reflections of ET2 David Hendrick, U.S. Coast Guard (1960-1964)

When I lost my student deferment at age 23 in 1959, I was ranked 1-A in the draft. I saw the handwriting on the wall and started thinking more about getting drafted into the Army. I didn’t want to be “Dog Face” and live in a Pup Tent.

I asked for advice from my parents, my Uncle Herman, and my brother, who had been in the Navy during WWII and in the Coast Guard. My brother advised me to join the Coast Guard. I eventually visited my local Coast Guard recruiter in San Diego.

I took many tests, listened to him advise me on Coast Guard life and the schools I could attend if qualified after Boot Camp. While he graded my tests, I sat there and thought things over. My test results put me in the 98th percentile of test-takers. I told him I wanted to be an Electronic Technician. He said he couldn’t guarantee I would get that school after I graduated from Boot Camp, but he thought I had a good chance.

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Service Reflections of CAPT Dee Norton, U.S. Coast Guard (1980-2005)

Service Reflections of CAPT Dee Norton, U.S. Coast Guard (1980-2005)

I graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in Law Enforcement. The Coast Guard was making all kinds of drug busts on the oceans and ports, which appealed to me. I wanted to get out and make a difference, and this seemed like a good opportunity.

My first assignment out of Officer Candidate School was to a 378 foot Coast Guard Cutter – Mellon, based out of Seattle, Washington.

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