USCG members display skill, versatility at Station Grand Haven

A day in the life of a Coast Guardsman

GRAND HAVEN, MICH. - The Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival is a time when people in the surrounding community get the chance to show appreciation for the men and women who serve in that branch of the United States Armed Forces.

There are about 40 Coast Guardsman stationed at Coast Guard Station Grand Haven.

When asked what the average day is like, most will say that no two days are ever the same, and that is just the way they like it.

"There is always a lot going on and we are always very busy," said Boats Mate Senior Chief Justin Olson, the officer in charge of Station Grand Haven.

Olson starts the day leading a meeting with a few dozen men and women stationed in Grand Haven. In a matter befitting a man of authority, his manner is steadfast, informative and inspiring. However, he says, those who serve under him need no encouragement from others.

"It is pretty easy to get people motivated. They should already be self-motivated," he said. "Everybody joined this service for a reason.

"One of the things I usually talk about with them is that I don't think there is a more noble job than what we do. We train every single day and get to perform those missions to save people's lives and that is just a great feeling all the around."

Most people pay attention to USCG members when they are working to save lives. BM1 Michael Sheahan, the operations petty officer at the station, says they probably get called to respond to disabled vessels most frequently. However, they train hard, year-round, so they are ready whenever called to help save lives.

"That includes anything that has imminent danger. So, anything that involves people in the water or boats in immediate distress, like boat fires, flooding and medical emergencies, or people falling into the water," said Sheahan. "You are moving off instinct, you are trying to get a boat on scene. We have a Watch Standard here 24 hours a day collecting that information and passing it along to the boats."

Some might argue that is the most important job for Coast Guard members, however -- it is only made possible through the endless hours of other duties performed daily.

"We are stem to stern. We do everything," said Olson. "If we blow an engine on one of our 47-foot motor lifeboats, they are replacing the engine. We have mechanics here. They are very, very good at what they do.

"If the red gears go out or the transmission on the boat, they replace it. If the hull gets damaged or needs a touch up, they paint it -- the building maintenance and everything."

Sheahan says, "an average day varies from maintenance, training -- operations like recreational boating safety."

"Each day brings a new challenge and a new job. That is the best part," he added.

From the way Sheahan and Olson talk about the Coast Guard, it's hard to imagine either doing anything else for a living.

In fact, Olson stated it plainly, saying, "I think I have the greatest job in the world."

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