Boreal Exclusive: A day in the life of the local Coast Guard
Jul 31, 2018 06:25AM
On Friday, July 27th, Boreal staff members Lisa Bauer and Shawn Buckroyd spent several hours at U.S. Coast Guard Station North Superior, located in Grand Marais near Artist Point. They were given a tour of the inside of the station and also invited to ride on the boat to experience some of their operations, which included a water rescue demo and the maneuverability of their 29 foot boat.
Coast Guard Station North Superior is manned from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Four reservists staff the station at a time. These reservists serve two weeks a year and one weekend a month in support of active duty Coast Guard members, to avoid staffing issues. During our visit, we were hosted by the following reservists:
- Chief Petty Officer Mark Mirsch
- Petty Officer Justin Bohmert
- Petty Officer Gerard Gagnon
- Petty Officer Jack Kornberg
This Coast Guard is
dispatched in mainly two ways:
- 911 calls
- Marine radio – Channel 16
Air Station Traverse City, Michigan, provides air support for all of Lake Superior. It takes approximately two hours for their aircraft to reach Grand Marais.
The Coast Guard is one of 5 branches of the Armed Forces. Basic training for Coast Guard takes place at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, New Jersey. This is the only Coast Guard Recruit Training Center. Basic training lasts for eight weeks and is extremely rigid. Some of the reservists who we spoke to commented that it is more mental than physical endurance. A focus is put on the ability of the recruit to multitask under pressure and to see how they react to tasks. Upon completing basic training, recruits are promoted to seaman or fireman. From there, they go to their first units. After spending time at those first units, they move on to specialized training, and are then promoted to Petty Officer, the equivalent of Non-commissioned Officer in other branches.
Some of the physical requirements recruits must meet in order to graduate basic training include:
Men will be expected to perform
Women will be expected to perform
Active duty geographic assignments are based on order of preference, service needs, and depend on qualifications. Reservist assignments are preset. Standard enlistment is four years of active duty, but many choose eight years of combined active and reserve duty.
The Coast Guard is not part of the Department of Defense, but instead the Dept. of Homeland Security. They are separate because they are enforcers of the law. The recruits who choose Maritime Law Enforcement undergo intensive, specialized training in Charleston, South Carolina.
Safety during the shift:
At a minimum, the boat crew must have on board a coxswain (vessel commander), two certified boat crew members, and one boarding officer. All four are surface swimmers. They must test their cold water dry suits twice a year to make sure they are working properly and comfortable. The seats inside the boat are shock mitigating to help absorb the movements. In rougher waters, the crew also wears helmets to avoid head injuries.
Daily tasks and activities:
Since most of the day can be weather-dependent, the reservists watch weather patterns and plan well in advance. Their boat, which is 29 feet long, has a recommended wave limit of six feet. Meals must be planned in advance for their two week stay, so they plan menus and order supplies from the parent station in Duluth. Supplies are then delivered. Other parts of daily duties include planning missions, boat inspections, and drills/safety trainings.
Hardest part of the job:
Chief Petty Officer Mark Mirsch said that responding to an incident in St. Paul where a mother threw her 11-month old twins off a bridge into the Mississippi River and then jumping in herself, where only 1 baby could be saved, was one of his worst. The other was the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis.
Petty Officer Justin Bohmert, who is the newest member, said that luckily, he has not had any bad experiences yet.
Petty Officer Gerard Gagnon said that a body recovery incident in Marquette, Michigan was trying. He said that the primary mission of the Coast Guard is saving lives, and when all their training can’t change the situation and they have to pull bodies out, it makes them feel helpless.
Petty Officer Jack Kornberg shared his memory of an incident in south Texas where a fisherman went over and could not climb back into his boat.
We are grateful that we have such a dedicated crew watching over the waters here in Cook County, keeping residents and visitors safe from harm. We thank these Coast Guard members for their service!