Flying to greater heights with the U.S. Coast Guard

By Petty Officer 1st Class NyxoLyno Cangemi

He searched for a job with the Maryland State Police, and instead, he found himself raising his right hand, and swearing his allegiance to the United States Coast Guard.

Prior to joining the Coast Guard, Petty Officer 3rd Class Alan Smith was looking for a job in the aviation field in his hometown of Forest Hill, Md. While looking into the Maryland State Police, Smith learned that the department used the same type of aircraft as the Coast Guard, and in addition, the state police also had a track record of hiring former service members of the Coast Guard.

Shortly thereafter in March of 2006, Smith joined the Coast Guard as the newest member of recruit company Whiskey 173. From there, he moved on to “A” school, became an aviation maintenance technician and transferred to Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, N.J.

“I got pretty lucky,” Smith said. “This is the station I wanted to come to. It’s a busy unit, they have a lot going on and they have the largest fleet of Dolphin helicopters in the Coast Guard.”

As training doesn’t end after boot camp, Smith realized his training would continue after “A” school.

“I love working on helicopters,” Smith said. “There is something new every day. It’s going to be quite a while before I start seeing the same stuff over and over again. There is more to the rate than just maintenance. When you start off initially, you perform a broad span of jobs – metal work, composites, mechanics. As an aviation maintenance technician, you have to know how to do each job.”
070803 AMT3 Alan Smith 2

The Coast Guard has three enlisted aviation rates, but AMTs have certain responsibilities unique not only to their rate, but to the service as well.

“Of all of the military branches, the Coast Guard is the only branch that has fixers and flyers, meaning, the people who fix the aircraft, are the ones who are going to take it on a test flight,” Smith said. “No other service does that, so it’s pretty unique to our job.”

Everyone in the Coast Guard plays a part in saving lives. While AMTs may not be the ones who jump from helicopters to pull others to safety or the pilots who fly the helicopters, Smith knows his place within the team and recognizes the significance and impact of his job.

“It’s a good feeling to know I’m a member of the team and play a part in maintaining helicopters, which are used to save people’s lives,” Smith said.

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