Setting Buoys and Examples

Seaman Nicholas Craig, a crew member at Aids to Navigation Team Cape May, N.J., poses for a photo Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2015. ANT Cape May's area of responsibility spans from Shark River, N.J., to Great Machipongo Inlet, Va. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class David Micallef)

Seaman Nicholas Craig, a crew member at Aids to Navigation Team Cape May, N.J. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class David Micallef)

Story and photos by Petty Officer 3rd Class David Micallef

Uniformity is widespread in the Coast Guard. From training techniques, to the members themselves, it’s often difficult to determine one individual from another when gazing through a sea of blue uniforms of Coast Guard men and women in formation. Standing out in a group of dedicated Coast Guard professionals can be difficult, but for the unassuming Seaman Nicholas Craig, he does so by lifting up to 50 times his own body weight. Like the mighty ant, he often tosses around 4,000 pounds every time he drops a concrete sinker into the depths of the Delaware River.

Craig is a boat crew member at Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Cape May, New Jersey. A leader at the lowest level, Craig is an integral part of his unit’s success.

“Seaman Craig has only been on board here for a little over a year and has already achieved so much more than what is expected of him,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Gaines, the executive petty officer at ANT Cape May. “He shows up to work every day ready to get after it. His hard-charging attitude has really been an asset to the unit and lifted weight off of his shipmates’ shoulders.”

Craig reported in August 2014 and worked diligently to get qualified as a boat crew member. The expectations are high and the work can be grueling in the ATON field, and Craig says the work can be both mentally and physically demanding.

“We’re working with heavy equipment,” said Craig. “Heaving around 90 feet of one-inch chain that weighs 720 pounds for several hours is really physically demanding. The mental part is the underway hours … accomplishment makes it all worth it. I’m always excited to come to work because we have great people, and I love my job. That’s something not everyone can say.”

In addition to becoming boat crew qualified, Craig became ATON qualified and certified as a boom crane operator on both the 26-foot and 49-foot boats. He earned qualifications as a buoy deck supervisor on the 26-foot Trailerable Aids to Navigation Boat (TANB), and has expressed a desire to become a certified TANB coxswain, which his command thinks he is ready for. Additionally, Craig is a boat keeper for one of the 26-foot TANBs, a position usually held by a petty officer.

ANT Cape May is responsible for over 570 aids to navigation markers. They are tasked with ensuring the safe operation of 16 hazardous inlets, the Delaware Bay’s critical main channel and the entire length of the New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway.

Gaines said Craig contributes to the overall success of the unit and can count on Craig to trailer the 10,000-pound TANB the length of the Garden State Parkway, troubleshoot a discrepant light or perform tedious logistics runs.

ANT Cape May is one of two aids to navigation teams within Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay – is co-located with the sector in Philadelphia. Each ANT is organized under Sector Delaware Bay’s waterways division, which ensures the ANTs have what they need to succeed. If the area of responsibility is like the human body, the waterways are like veins and arteries. The personnel at the waterways division work closely with the ANT crews and the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain those waterways, ensure they’re healthy.

“As a boom crane operator, Seaman Craig is moves buoys and concrete sinkers weighing up to 4,000 pounds around fellow crew members in a dynamic environment,” said Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Runt, the aids to navigation officer at Sector Delaware Bay. “The ANT’s command has to have the highest trust in a person’s maturity in order to give them this level of certification. That speaks volumes about Seaman Craig and the example he sets.”

As Craig acquires qualifications above his pay grade, he is entrusted with more responsibility from his supervisors while he waits for his opportunity to attend Marine Science Technician “A” school. With his positive and proactive attitude toward hard work, Craig’s future in the Coast Guard is bright.

Gaines spoke highly of Craig’s work ethic, saying he wishes he could serve as a crew member at the ANT longer.

“Being that my “A” school list provides such a long wait, I will have a lot of free time if I’m fully qualified, so getting more qualifications keeps me busy and keeps me learning about new things that the basic qualifications don’t cover,” said Craig. “I can contribute more to the unit if I’m pursuing extra qualifications rather than being stagnant.”

If Craig continues to demonstrate stellar traits, he is destined to stand out in his future as a marine science technician.

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