Station Barnegat Light: Train, maintain and operate on the New Jersey shore

Story and photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Crystalynn Kneen
When the thought of summer comes to mind, many images appear with great admiration. Summer is a time when children have accomplished another school year and families venture to beaches to relish in the heat and boisterous days of a sunny season.

Although this is the fundamental concept of summer, 42 men and women on a petite island on the New Jersey shore have another vision. This is a vision they take with great gratification and prepare for on a constant basis, everyday, throughout the year. Critical duties, which keep the boating community and the population in the area safe from harm during the summer as well as the duration of the year. They give the people a piece of mind to know they are out there training, maintaining and operating, a motto they go by every day.

This group of hardworking men and women are the crew of U.S. Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light, N.J., and for 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year, they are on guard and give all their fortitude as the guardians in their area of responsibility.

The crew of Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light’s area of responsibility ranges from Tom’s River Bridge in Tom’s River, N.J., to Little Egg Inlet, N.J., as well as encompassing another 50 nautical miles off shore. In this 2,500 square-mile area is where a multitude of missions are accomplished.

“Our crew conducts on average 200 response cases, to include search and rescue, marine environmental protection and almost 900-1,000 law enforcement boardings a year,” said Chief Warrant Officer Kary Moss, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light. “The crew stays busy. We constantly train, maintain and operate.”

The training at this station is no easy task. it takes a crewmember an average of about four months to become a boat crewman, and an additional month to get an engineer qualification and approximately a year and a half to become a boat driver. It is also a one to two year learning experience to be able to drive the boat in heavy weather and another one to two years to conduct the operations in the surf.

“The training experience takes time,” said Moss. “We have to make sure we produce a good qualified product for the duties we have.”

BARNEGAT LIGHT, N.J. – A boat crew from Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light conducts surf training during inclement weather March 29, 2010. The station is one of 20 surf stations in the Coast Guard.

Another duty the crew has is being a surf station. To be designated as a surf station, 10 percent of the breaking surf conditions have to be above eight feet in the area throughout the year.

“We are one of 20 surf stations in the Coast Guard,” said Moss. “We are one of five on the east coast and the only one in New Jersey.”

Maintenance and upkeep of their assets is another duty the crew has. They have two 47-foot rescue boats, two 25-foot rescue boats and a 24-foot shallow water boat to help boaters in any situation that arises.

“Every hour of the day has to be utilized appropriately or we can fall behind on our training and maintenance, which can mean falling behind on our operations,” said Moss.

This is a concept which is not an option. They must live by the Coast Guards motto as ‘Always Ready,’ which means they are always ready for any operation they are faced with.

“This station is a really good cross section of what operations consist of here,” said Dustin Lawrey, a crewmember of Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light. This is one of the only places you can get experience with all operations between law enforcement, search and rescue and pollution. You get it all.”

When they are not training to save lives or doing these daily operations, the crew is also active in the community. Several members are involved with the local rescue squads by working part time as emergency medical technicians. Members of the station serve as a service color guard for every parade on Long Beach Island and the surrounding communities. This also means keeping a good relationship with the community and keeping them informed and educated on boating safety by providing their 25-foot response boat for display during community events.

“Our relationship with the community is also helped by the Coast Guard Auxiliary,” said Moss. “They do a great job by helping us communicate boating safety through their boating education classes and voluntary dock-side exam.”

Equally important at this station is the leadership and role models for the new younger people just coming into the Coast Guard and how the station operates and supports each other as a whole.

“Of what you are exposed to as a young adult, this is a very hard job,” said Lawrey. “We are here to support people in anything they want to do. No one is going to hold anyone back. We help get them ready for the next position.”

For a number of people stationed here, there are a few in which this is their first duty station in the Coast Guard working to advance to the next position.

“This is a really good station for your first unit,” said Hannah McLaurin, a crewmember at Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light. “It’s a very welcoming unit and you experience a lot of things. When that search and rescue alarm goes off, everyone works together, they know their job and they get out there as fast as they can.”

In closing, Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light is constantly training, maintaining and operating as a whole to get the job done for protecting the boating community in their area.

“As the commanding officer here, I am constantly telling the crew this is the best Coast Guard station in the country,” said Moss. “The crew does extraordinary things and provides a tremendous service to our customers. The crew really functions well as a whole, and they need to understand altogether people care here. When people care you will have good results.”

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