CGC Dorado’s newest cuttermen

CGC Dorado

CGC Dorado

Story by Lt. j.g Mark Tatara 

Some in the Coast Guard say that “underway is the only way.”  The Coast Guard is among the finest sea-going services in the world, and the men and women who dedicate themselves to operating the Coast Guard’s cutters are known as cuttermen.  They are one with the sea and its lore, watching the sun rise and set over vast oceans, day in and day out, conducting the Coast Guard’s missions on the front lines.

During the month of March, Coast Guard Cutter Dorado had the privilege of awarding two of its crewmembers with their cutterman insignia.  Boatswain’s Mate Chief Petty Officer Jose Segura and Food Service Specialist 1st Class Petty Officer Andrew Belli.  They have dedicated their careers to the service, in time becoming professional mariners.

 The cutterman insignia was instituted in 1974 to provide recognition for Coast Guard personnel who, in the tradition of professional mariners, have performed duties afloat in keeping with their grade and rate.  It signifies that they have exhibited the requisite professionalism and dedication to duty expected of seagoing Coast Guard personnel.  The insignia is a visible means of recognizing their qualities and identifies the wearer as a professional mariner.  The design can be divided into three basic areas.  Each is representative of a cutterman’s special qualities: the wheel and the waves represent the heritage of the sea, the five-point star represents five years of sea duty and the center, the shield, represents the Coast Guard and its seagoing tradition.

Boatswain's Mate Chief Petty Officer Jose Segura

Boatswain’s Mate Chief Petty Officer Jose Segura

 “A cutterman is someone who has endured the rigors and dangers of sea duty while mastering their craft and knowledge of their ship,” said Machinery Technician Chief Petty Officer Aron Mitchell, a permanent cutterman.  In order to earn the distinction as a cutterman, a member must dedicate at least five years of sea service on two different tours of sea duty, complete their required watch station personnel qualification standard, and pass an oral board with a qualified cutterman.

Food Service Specialist 1st Class Petty Officer Andrew Belli

Food Service Specialist 1st Class Petty Officer Andrew Belli

Belli earned his permanent cutterman insignia March 4, 2014, after serving aboard three 87-foot patrol boats: Hawk, Hammerhead and Dorado.  “During my time underway, I learned from my shipmates how to be a cutterman,” said Belli.  “My training encompassed engineering, deck and damage-control skills to become a professional mariner.  Now that I am a permanent cutterman, it is my responsibility to teach and develop junior members to take pride in becoming a permanent cutterman.”

 Segura will earn his permanent cutterman insignia on March 21, after serving aboard cutters Wrangle, Edisto, Morgenthau, Active, Healy and Dorado.  “The cutterman insignia not only signifies the sacrifices I have made, but those of my family as well, said Segura.  “Professionally, the time at sea has developed and molded me into the professional mariner whom I believe the insignia represents, but it has also strengthened my relationships at home.  Personally, the periods spent at sea away from my family have fortified the bond with my wife and son.  We enjoy each other’s company more.”

Being underway creates a unique bond between shipmates.  The sea strengthens that bond, creating lifelong friendships.  While being a cutterman has no bearing on advancement or monetary gain, this honorable tradition allows its members to join the sailors of the past and guide the cuttermen of the future.  When a cutterman reports to a new unit, respect is given for the sea, shield and five points they bear on his or her uniform.  They have earned it.  Out of all the Coast Guard’s many advancements, qualifications and accomplishments, this unique insignia is one of the most revered.

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