The mighty Hawksbill

Story provided by Master Chief Petty Officer Louis Coleman and Chief Petty Officer Phillip Dawalt, command cadre, Coast Guard Cutter Hawksbill

The 87-foot Coast Guard Cutter Hawksbill, a Coastal Patrol Boat homeported in Monterey, California, has room for 12 members, each one holding a critical position integral to the success of the mission. Cutter Hawksbill saw a turnover of five positions over the past four months.

Turnover is always a challenge for the unit and member. The smaller the crew, the larger the impact of each transfer – unless it’s the “Mighty Hawksbill,” as the crew affectionately calls her. Over the past four months, the Hawksbill has welcomed aboard Seaman Apprentice Max Jerome, Seaman Alethea Thompson, Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric Seastrand, Petty Officer 2nd Class Josh Kopec, and Chief Petty Officer Rekiya Janssen.

A Cutter Hawksbill crewmember (left) receives training to maneuver the 87-footer's small boat through the Hawksbills's stern gate on Monterey Bay. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

A Cutter Hawksbill crewmember (left) receives training to maneuver the 87-footer’s small boat through the Hawksbills’s stern gate on Monterey Bay. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

As a new member reports aboard, a qualified member departs, taking away his or her qualification and experience. Even the most aggressive training program will fall short if the new member and crew are lacking motivation to fill the void that those departing shipmates left behind. It is evident with each new member stepping up and attaining their qualifications within the prescribed time frame, fully understanding their positions and standing taut watches that the crew of the Hawksbill does not lack that internal drive to succeed.

We are tested in our ability to carry these qualifications out in many ways. Two good tests are from the real world and the other is the classic Ready for Operations Inspection. Each test provides a healthy dose of stress, as the sea will not yield to mistakes, as there is no “safety time out” when the bell rings.

This was the case in July when the Hawksbill received the call to make best speed to a disabled sailing vessel approximately 172 miles offshore. During a solo transpacific yacht race from California to Hawaii, the 30-foot sailboat Domino lost its rudder in deteriorating weather conditions. Rarely do search-and-rescue cases occur on sunny days with calm seas, and this was no exception. The average sea state was 10 feet with steady 30-knot winds or just enough to make the ride uncomfortable. Forty-eight hours later, the Hawksbill pulled into Monterey Bay and passed the Domino off to an awaiting small boat, successfully completing the mission with the crew intact, worn and a bit more salty.

New crewmembers of the Cutter Hawksbill hurry to don their immersion suits during an abandon ship drill aboard the 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat on Monterey Bay. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

New crewmembers of the Cutter Hawksbill hurry to don their immersion suits during an abandon ship drill aboard the 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat on Monterey Bay. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The second test is the RFO inspection. These inspections are a snapshot into the readiness of the unit and its equipment, and so far the crew of the Hawksbill has turned in above-average written tests, passed material condition inspections with very high scores and passed all Damage Control drills – not bad for a unit with such a recent high turnover.The Hawksbill is focused on mission success and personal success. The personal success is driven by a motivated crew who celebrated five advancements this summer. Fireman Andrew Ward received his first Coast Guard advancement in September and is looking forward to moving on to “A” School to continue his development. Petty Officers Mike Patterson and Drew Heald received well-deserved advancements to E6 in July and September.

Patterson and Heald played critical roles in developing the knowledge and confidence of our new shipmates throughout the summer. Not wanting to fall behind and looking to lead from the front, the command cadre, Chief Petty Officer Phillip Dawalt and Master Chief Petty Officer Louis Coleman also advanced this past June and August, respectively.

Balancing busy operational schedules, inspections and personal and professional growth all give this unit and its crew their character. The crew of the Hawksbill eagerly awaits the challenges ahead as they continue to sharpen their skills in all aspects of patrol boat life. As the new shipmates are welcomed aboard, they will continue to forge the bonds that motivate each person to uphold the traditions and success that the Hawksbill has come to know.

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