Coast Guard Station Tybee, proud to be a part of the community

Coast Guard Station Tybee, Georgia, sits on the grounds of Fort Pulaski National Monument in Georgia. Station Tybee moved to Fort Pulaski from Lazaretto Creek in 1983 and is currently slated to receive a whole new station building. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena.Nestled amongst the thick trees of historic Fort Pulaski National Monument on Cockspur Island is Coast Guard Station Tybee Island, Georgia. One of only two Coast Guard small-boat stations in Georgia, Station Tybee Island’s area of responsibility runs from Saint Catherine’s Island to just north of Saint Helena Island, or more than 60 miles of coastline.

Under the tactical control of Coast Guard Sector Charleston, South Carolina, Station Tybee Island’s personnel conduct various missions including search and rescue, law enforcement and environmental protection. During the summer season, Station Tybee Island crews respond to approximately two to four cases weekly.

As a quick look back, Coast Guard Station Tybee Island was constructed in Jan. 1982 and was completed that April. Prior to completion at Fort Pulaski, it was in a temporary facility at Lazaretto Creek. Coast Guard leadership felt it was important to move the unit, along with Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Tybee and, then Coast Guard Cutter Cape Upright, to Fort Pulaski, as it is a well-known location almost every mariner knew.

In 2016, almost 35 years after its creation, Hurricane Matthew battered the station with high winds and flooding. Once the dust settled and the smoke cleared, so to speak, the damage was easily visible. Two piers: damaged. The second story of the unit: unlivable. Station personnel pushed on though. The communications room on the first level was undamaged, and they immediately began response operations. Response vessels were temporarily relocated to Lazaretto Creek as it was the closest, undamaged area to launch from for search and rescue.

“Even though it is only about 3 miles away, moving the vessels to Lazaretto added almost 10 minutes to our response time,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Corey Pentolino, a Station Tybee Island crewmember and one of the last personnel still assigned to the station since Hurricane Matthew. “In most situations, 10 minutes is not that long, but in a search-and-rescue case it can potentially be the difference between life and death for a mariner.”

The local community recognized the importance and the value personnel at Station Tybee Island brought so, in June 2017, the City of Tybee officially became a Coast Guard City. Becoming an official Coast Guard City means the community is committed to providing continued support to Coast Guard missions, members and their families.

Following on the footsteps of the City of Tybee, in 2018 Chatham County was declared a Coast Guard Community. Personnel from the six Coast Guard units in Chatham County, including Station Tybee Island, were in attendance to witness Coast Guard Commandant, Adm. Karl Schultz receive not only the ceremonial key to Chatham County, but also to the City of Savannah, Georgia and the City of Tybee Island on behalf of the personnel assigned to Chatham County units.

The tight-knit Coast Guard communities were put to a challenge at the end of 2018.

Dec. 22, 2018 saw the start of the longest recorded government shut down in American history. Though the Department of Defense’s budget remained intact, Coast Guard personnel (under the Department of Homeland Security) were not safe. Coast Guardsmen all across the world, including at Station Tybee, were required to continue day-to-day operations without pay.

“It was a really trying situation for all of us, especially for one of our shipmates,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley Valine, an officer of the day at Station Tybee. “She was currently at technical school in Virginia and was going into early labor. Her husband, still here in Tybee, quit his job to fly to be with her in the hospital in Virginia. Because of the shutdown, now they had zero income.”

It was during this unknown, challenging time the community was there for its Coast Guard. The Community rallied together not only for her shipmate, but for everyone at Station Tybee. Businesses around Chatham County provided the crew’s food, baby and toddler supplies, and monetary donations. Residents and partner agency personnel in the area provided fully-cooked meals to crews on duty, often for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“It was truly amazing to see the community come together and give us a helping hand when we needed it most,” said Fireman Matthew Lawrence, a crewmember at Station Tybee. “As if that wasn’t enough, they even provided the station with over $10,000 in gift cards, so we can buy much-needed supplies.”

There are currently plans to demolish the old building and construct a new, high-tech Station Tybee. Once this takes place, you can be sure the crews will serve their communities and country with the same resiliency and devotion to duty they have since 1982. Keep your eyes on Station Tybee!

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