Coast Guard in the community

Posted: Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Many people don't realize the extent of responsibility taken on when signing up for the United States Coast Guard. New recruits are welcomed with heavy qualification manuals, perpetually replaced upon completion. Those desiring advancement receive more requirements, so on and so forth, throughout an enlistment or commissioned career.

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Coast Guardsmen are on call 24-hours a day, seven days a week. It is safe to say that time not taken up by work will be taken up thinking about work, and to the achievement oriented personality of many service members this is just part of the privilege of serving. Strong encouragement to learn and advance has trained military members to be leaders in virtually every industry.

As if unable to bear an idle moment, some members find yet more ways to occupy their time. These achievers often perform community services or join local charitable organizations. Such opportunities are virtually limitless, including participation in Boy Scouts of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters and The American Red Cross Foundation. Several departments have also 'sponsored' areas of the highway to keep clean of debris. These and other efforts can have a powerful effect on perception of the Coast Guard in a local community, especially in isolated populations like Juneau, Alaska. The following examples undoubtedly leave out a large amount of local efforts.

Capt. Michael Cerne, chief of Planning and Force Readiness Division, is one of many self motivated contributors. He volunteers time at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School to teach navigation, search patterns and set and drift. Set and drift is a term used to describe the way tides, currents and wind effects people or disabled vessels in the water. A complicated subject for most adults, Cerne makes short work of familiarizing a class of advanced math sixth graders.

Cerne said he enjoys helping out at the schools, and feels that it is important for parents to be involved. "My second daughter is now attending Dzantik'i Heeni, and the teachers and staff have been outstanding. It was my chance to give back a little. I also think it's important for Coast Guard members to be involved in the community, especially here in Alaska. Besides, my daughter asked me to teach the class, and she can be pretty convincing."

"I hope students walk away with a sense that there are real life and important applications for the math they are learning in school," he said. "I think search and rescue, saving lives, is a perfect example, and something they can relate to here in Juneau."

When the Twin Lakes neighborhood requested volunteers to build a large playground project, Sector Juneau responded with more than ten workers for several work days. Members offered up their skills and general labor without hesitation. The Navy Warship Bunker Hill moored up in Gastineau Channel at about the same time, and over a dozen volunteers showed up to assist in the efforts.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Liberty goes above and beyond by organizing a blanket, coat and new toy drive. Items donated by Juneau residents are taken to remote villages of Southeast Alaska. The tradition was a huge success this year due in part to the joint participation of members from Liberty, Sector Juneau, Integrated Support and Command, Juneau Chiefs and Administration staff as well as the large haul of donations made by the community and voluntary services of local dry cleaning facilities.

Christmas charity is not forgotten by the Juneau Coast Guard Military and Family Association (JCGMFA). Members of this organization make stockings and collect donations for stocking stuffers. The full stockings are then donated to the Aware Shelter and St. Vincent de Paul for families in need. In March the JCGMFA also conducts an auction raising money for local organizations and schools who apply for the funds.

First Class Yeoman Gregory Cazemier Jr., Navy Detachment Alaska, volunteers much of his free time to work with the community of Juneau. Along with training with the fire department, he volunteers his time with Juneau trail maintenance organizations. "I like the feeling of accomplishment, and want to be ready for any emergency situations that could occur when I go hiking, rock climbing or kayaking," said Cazemier.

Juneau's Chief Petty Officer Association put together a free senior citizen's dinner at the Alaskan Native Brotherhood Hall. Juneau chiefs annually provide the free dinner to approximately 400 senior citizens. Entertainment and door prizes are also included at the yearly event.

Members of the Health Services Division are pitching in by donating their time to serve food at a local soup kitchen called the Glory Hole. Cdr. Juan Palacio, chief of the Health Services Division, came up with the idea and the majority of the staff decided to participate.

"The clinic active duty and civilian employees pitch in to purchase, cook and serve meals in the local soup kitchen," said Health Service Technician Third Class Joseph Jones. "It creates camaraderie for everyone at the clinic and gives us a chance to give something back to the community."

The combined impact of these individuals in a community can easily be overlooked when assessing an organization's effect as a whole. Unquestionably, the community would be a different place if these people did not get involved. Reaching a student or easing the suffering of a disadvantaged person has rewards of its own. Service members usually arrive in a new area as a stranger every few years. For many, the sense of community is something missed, and worth just a little more hard work.

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