Pamlico – Enduring the elements to keep you safe

8th Coast Guard District NewsIf you look at a map of U.S. Coast Guard sectors and boat stations scattered across the U.S., you will notice that the Coast Guard is present almost anywhere there is a waterway, or close enough in proximity to be ready when called up in time of need. True to their service motto, Coast Guardsmen are always prepared to respond, no matter the case, no matter the condition.

The entire Coast Guard consists of approximately 41,000 service members. Compare that to the New York City Police Department, which has roughly 36,000 police officers, and you get a better understanding of the size of this branch. Looking at that number, it can be hard to imagine how the Coast Guard is able to take on as many missions as it does. That success can be contributed to the specially trained men and women who make up this unique branch of the military and the specialized missions they fulfill.

The Coast Guard Cutter Pamlico and crew is one unit involved in carrying out these specialized missions. The 16-member crew board Pamlico, a 160-foot construction tender, daily as their job. On a normal day, this vessel and crew can be found performing one of its many missions involved in safe navigation of our waterways and search and rescue efforts.

The Coast Guard Cutter Pamlico, a 160-foot inland construction tender, homeported in New Orleans, transits Baptiste Collette Bayou, while working aids to navigation in the Mississippi River Delta near Venice, La., Wednesday April 29, 2009.  The Pamlico is maned by 16 crewmembers, who construct fixed aids to navigation from Baton Rouge to the Southwest Pass o the mississippi river and its surrounding waterways.  U.S. Coast Guard photograph / Petty Officer 3rd Class Tom Atkeson

The Coast Guard Cutter Pamlico, a 160-foot inland construction tender, homeported in New Orleans, transits Baptiste Collette Bayou

“Our primary mission is marking and building all aids to navigation, from the mouth of the Mississippi, north to Baton Rouge, La., west to Grand Isle, La., and east to Biloxi, Miss.,” said Chief Warrant Officer Hyoit Caskey, commanding officer for Pamlico. “Our secondary mission would involve search and rescue.”

From sunrise to sunset, this crew spends the majority of their days maintaining a safely marked waterway for commercial and personal boating. The mission for this crew is not an easy one by any means. Often the conditions they work in are dangerous and unpredictable.

“Driving a 160-foot construction tender in any wind over 15 knots can be extremely difficult and very challenging,” said Caskey. “Any work on the buoy deck is dangerous. The hammer and lead weigh around 3,000 pounds, and the pile weighs about 1,500 pounds, so anytime you get that kind of weight and equipment over your head it is dangerous. Now mix in wind, current and rain and it becomes extremely dangerous at all times in and around the buoy deck.”

“Another huge issue is noise,” said Caskey. “With the crane operating, space ventilation on and wind blowing, it is extremely difficult for my spud operators and those on the buoy deck to hear commands during evolutions.”

On this particular day, the crew prepares to get underway to make its return to Coast Guard Station New Orleans. Immediately after orders are given by Caskey, the crewmembers disperse to their assigned areas. Each crewmember knows exactly where they are suppose to be and the expectations of them.

“I have the upmost respect for my crew,” said Caskey. “As a commanding officer, I get the glory of getting the mission accomplished and getting the aids rebuilt, while they work out in the heat, mosquitoes, yellow flies, rain, cold and the daily dangers on and around the buoy deck.”

The men and women of this crew will not necessarily be recognized for their efforts or get the attention they deserve for a job well done, but the job they do is vital to the safety of mariners and the economy.

“Our job is very important,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class James Doughty, a crewmember on Pamlico. “People see the nice boats, the cool search and rescue missions and the aircrafts, but they don’t always see the behind-the-scenes work that goes on. These missions cannot be completed without the construction work this crew performs on a routine basis.”

Caskey understands the elements his crew faces to complete their missions and recognizes the amount of dedication they give to ensure boater safety.

“I have been blessed with an awesome crew, including many that have already departed,” said Caskey. “They are always eager to get underway and go above and beyond to get the job done. They have a huge amount of pride when it comes to the Pamlico and to the aids that we rebuild. It is a great ship and I could not of hand-picked a finer bunch of shipmates.”

So as you observe boaters taking their vessels out on the rivers, lakes, etc., this spring and summer for business or entertainment, keep in mind that there is probably a small boat station near by with a crew just like the one on Pamlico that is responsible for making sure your waterways are safe.

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