Coast Guard Chief receives prestigious Master Cutterman award in Kodiak

KODIAK, Alaska – Chief Petty Officer Paul Hicks, with the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR was named the Coast Guard’s 13th Master Cutterman in an informal ceremony at the Golden Anchor on Coast Guard base Kodiak Friday.

While many Guardians wear the Cutterman’s insignia, which represents five years of sea service, the honor of Master Cutterman is held by Guardians having served more than 20 years at sea.

Hicks has served 20 years of sea time aboard eight different cutters and three ashore units during his 27-year Coast Guard career. He joined the Coast Guard in March of 1980 on a delayed enlistment and upon graduation from recruit training was assigned to the cutter Point Brown.

Since then Hicks has been stationed with the cutters Sweetgum, Sherman, Firebush, Kanawha, Kankakee and Alex Haley. His current assignment is aboard the Cutter SPAR as main propulsion division chief.

While stationed with the Sweetgum, Hicks played a vital role during the response to Hurricane Hugo. After Hugo tore through the Virgin Islands, Bahamas and San Juan, Puerto Rico, he vigilantly worked to restore the aids to navigation team.

Over the course of his Coast Guard career, Hicks has preformed a variety of jobs that led to his success. He redesigned the open water oil containment recovery system to recover spilled petroleum products following the 1993 Midwest floods in St. Louis. He was instrumental in the pre-commissioning of the cutter Alex Haley by completing the schematics of the unique ship.

Hicks has been married for 15 years and has two children ages, 10 and 12. He respects his home life and looks forward to retiring in Tennessee where he can enjoy the seasons with a lot of land.

“I’m still a believer that family comes first,” said Hicks. “When I go home I try to leave work at work. My wife has put up with 14 years of sea time. So the young guys should get the underway when they can. It’s harder when you get married.”

Hicks’s military decorations include a Coast Guard Achievement Medal, Commandant’s Letter of Commendation, Coast Guard Unit Commendation, Bicentennial Unit Commendation and the Good Conduct Award.

A recognized Cutterman can wear the insignia on the uniform which is comprised of a helm wheel surrounded by waves representing the heritage of the sea, a five point star noting five years sea service, and a shield representing the service and its seagoing traditions.

Prior to 1974, no recognition was given to those serving extended periods at sea. Discussions began in 2006 in Washington, D.C., to devise an award to recognize those with more than 20 years of service.

Thus, the Master Cutterman award was born. The Guardian receives a certificate signed by the Commandant of the Coast Guard. The document depicts the cutters the awardee served on during their career.

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