The Coast Guard is a small service; it’s even smaller if you’re in aviation. By the time you’ve been in for a decade, you’ve run into the same people several times. By year twenty, every unit transfer seems like a family reunion. This was true when I was growing up as the daughter of a Coast Guard pilot and remained true during my own career. When a ship goes down, a small boat capsizes, or an aircraft disappears, chances are high that you either lost a friend or are friends with someone who is grieving.
Coasties are pretty special people – I’ll admit to only a small bit of bias in that statement. Our aviators are a particularly special breed. Remember the heroes of Katrina? What you saw was people responding in the way that is, for them, “ops normal.” The air crews are close-knit, highly competent, intelligent, and mission-focused. While they operate within the confines of highly-disciplined operational requirements, they also are some of the most compassionate people you will meet. Listening to a pilot talk a panicked boater through hoist procedures is a revelation in crisis communication.
Don’t take my word for how awesome our aviators are: this interview with Lieutenant Commander Che Barnes does a good job of representing the group. LCDR Barnes was the aircraft commander for the Coast Guard C-130 involved in a mid-air collision with a Marine Corps helicopter last Thursday. Nine people are missing.
Fair winds, shipmates.