From the farm to Philly: A young woman’s transition to the Coast Guard

Fireman Kira Ayoub, a crewmember at Coast Guard Station Philadelphia, uses a Honda diagnostic tester to check for bad sensors on a 25-foot Response Boat at the station, Nov. 30, 2010. Ayoub is required to work on these engines when they break and also do preventative maintenance. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty officer 2nd Class Crystalynn A. Kneen.

Fireman Kira Ayoub, a crewmember at Coast Guard Station Philadelphia, uses a Honda diagnostic tester to check for bad sensors on a 25-foot Response Boat

She poked her thick brownish-blonde hair out of the non-skid covered deck of the dull gray 41-foot boat where she had been working inside an engine room. Her wide, faithful grin in place as she waved animatedly from her area of obligation. Her petite green eyes were illuminated with a child-like gaze. Her face still showed the roundness of her cheeks like most 18-year-olds. Her lengthy frame carefully maneuvered off the boat with two small red-capped oil samples in her slender hands.

She was only 18-years old, but Fireman Kira Ayoub walked with a sense of gratification and dignity. Her uniform was neat but showed signs of drudgery. There was no evidence of shyness or insecurity as she bantered alongside her co-worker at Coast Guard Station Philadelphia. Ayoub has transitioned to a completely different life than what she had before she joined the Coast Guard.

Ayoub’s life before was opposite from her military calling. She is from a small 6,000 resident town called St. John’s in Central Michigan. Her parents operate a livestock farm. She has never boarded a boat, was homeschooled and she journeyed to church almost every Sunday.

This Sunday ritual is how her Coast Guard life began.

“My recruiter was a member of my church,” said Ayoub. “He took me to an air station and a small boat station to show me how the Coast Guard works because I didn’t even know what it was.”

It was these tours that sold Ayoub on the Coast Guard.

“Seeing so many different insights with such positive reflections of the Coast Guard are what persuaded me to join,” said Ayoub.

Ayoub never pictured herself in the military before so she asked her recruiter a million questions and began preparing for boot camp.

“I was nervous, and scared to death,” said Ayoub. “I wanted to fully understand everything, and I prepared by studying and working out before I left.”

For Ayoub, boot camp really started with the formation of her new family.

“My Company was Tango-183,” she said with pride.

Ayoub was a normal recruit; she kept quiet and moved quickly. By week five, boot camp had become routine and she was familiar and comfortable with the people around her.

“It was totally different than I’ve ever known,” said Ayoub. “Nothing was similar; I came from working in a small town hardware store to complete madness, but I volunteered for everything I could and put myself out there.”

After boot camp, Ayoub was allowed a week to go home and visit her family as a new Coast Guard member.

The hardest thing I had to do was get on that plane after that week and go to my new duty station she said.

With Yukon, her stuffed lamb, in tow she boarded the plane to where her new life would begin in Philadelphia.

Ayoub arrived at station Philadelphia with the outlook of taking everything in stride.

“I am the only girl at the station, but it does not intimidate me,” she said. “I was sat down and given ground rules by my supervisors. I guess you can say they laid down the law on what they expected from me as a Coast Guard member.”

The expectations of Coast Guard members require you to perform as a team and individually to your full potential.

Her performance reflected positively to her supervisors and co-workers.

“Fireman Ayoub is a good worker,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Lonny Burris, her supervisor at Coast Guard Station Philadelphia. “She is willing to work very hard. She even studies for her qualifications on her off time.”

Being a fireman at a small boat station requires her to be qualified on certain equipment and boats. She must get boat crew qualified as well as boarding team member and engineer. All these qualifications make up what it takes to respond to the Coast Guard’s daily challenges such as search and rescue, law enforcement and safety on the water.

“The qualification process here is not what I expected, but I’m adjusting well and adapting to what I have to do,” Ayoub said. “At least once a week I stop and think to myself, I’ve never pictured myself doing this.”

Her smile and positive attitude also reflects on her co-workers and supervisors in daily activities.

“She is really intelligent,” said Petty officer 1st Class Robert Panish, the engineering petty officer at the station. “She seems happy to be here and is responding well to this transition and lifestyle.”

Ayoub said she believes she is transitioning so well because of the people she works with daily.

“The crew here has made it an easier process,” said Ayoub. “They have good morals and are passionate about the Coast Guard. They care about each other and help whenever they can. Everyone is willing to help, explain or teach me something. I had to just jump right in and get my hands dirty.”

The help Ayoub receives does not come without jokes or teasing.

“All the guys think I’m sheltered,” said Ayoub. “I get teased all the time about it. The other day, they sent me to go look for a flux capacitor and plutonium. It’s all in good fun.”

Ayoub’s so called sheltered life reflects in her barracks room located in the small dark brick building not 50-feet away from the station she works at daily. Her bed is covered with a purple blanket given to her by her grandmother. She also brought with her a wood framed needle point lamb with the words ‘the Lord is my Shepherd’ embroidered on it. Showing signs of the values and faith she has instilled in her.

“Although nothing else is familiar, the values here are,” said Ayoub. “The only thing that has made the transition possible is the people in the Coast Guard. They have a great outlook.”

All in all, Ayoub says her development as a Coast Guard member has been full of experiences and life.

“She is a sharp kid,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Richard Stoltzfus, the executive petty officer at Coast Guard Station Philadelphia. “She is good spirited and wants to work and do well. She has jumped right in and has made herself available. I am really happy to see that. We are lucky to get such a smart kid out of boot camp.”

Ayoub is now going through boarding team member training. This training includes law enforcement and tactical skills, which are one of the other qualifications she must have for Coast Guard missions besides her boat crewman and engineering demands.

“It’s a challenge everyday here,” said Ayoub. “From beating someone up in tactical training to replacing a turbo charger in an engine room, you have to adapt to everything and make the best of it. I enjoy it.”

Another Coast Guard mission Ayoub is excited to be a part of is search and rescue.“My first search and rescue case was an overturned kayak in the Schuylkill River,” said Ayoub. “I thought to myself, this is it; this is the day I save someone in the Coast Guard. When we got there, it was a piece of blue Styrofoam. I was a little disappointed.”

Even though this particular case was a false alarm, she says her goal is to get qualified so she can make a difference. To save someone in need would make it all worthwhile she stated.

Ayoub says she does not know what her long term goals are yet in the Coast Guard. After she gets qualified, she will start looking into a Coast Guard rating. As of right now, she says she is happy and content with her life.

“It’s exciting to me and neat how all this good in my life has led me to the Coast Guard,” said Ayoub. “The experience has changed my life so much, and I will take everything I’ve learned and will learn, with me, whatever I do.”

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