Station Mayport crew member conducts first rescue as coxswain on First Coast

By Petty Offcer 3rd Class Cindy Beckert

Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert M. Kroll, a boatswain’s mate from Coast Guard Station Mayport, Fla., and a Keystone Heights, Fla., native, was still awake when the call came in after midnight.

Early Sunday morning Station Mayport crewmembers had just responded to one false-alarm distress call and were getting ready for bed when the second call came in.

Approximately 20-miles offshore of St. Marys, Ga., a small coastal town about 30-miles north of Station Mayport, a boat had capsized with three people aboard.

Kroll who earned his coxswain qualification just five days earlier, led the search crew to the scene of distress. Coxswains serve as the boat driver and is charged with managing the crew aboard the small boat including the search and rescue operation.

The coxswain qualification process can take up to a year to complete, and includes mastering practical qualification standards such as boat handling, navigation, team coordination and engineering.

This was going to be Kroll’s first mission as coxswain at Station Mayport and he said he was nervous, but really more excited than anything.

Kroll joined the Coast Guard in August 2001 and knew he wanted to become a boatswain’s mate.

“I’ve been around boats my whole life, my father is a charter captain, it was a natural choice,” Kroll said.

As Kroll, and the four other 47-foot motor lifeboat crewmembers, approached the capsized boat, he said the sinking boat was almost completely submerged. A helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Savannah, Ga., had already rescued one man from the water, while the other two men were struggling to stay aboard the sinking boat’s hull.

There was yelling, he said. As the helicopter crew threw down a heaving line and a life raft, I pulled the boat up towards the men and my crew rescued them from the water, he added.

This was not Kroll’s first rescue ever. He said he couldn’t even begin to guess how many rescues he has been involved with while stationed at other Coast Guard units throughout the nation.

However, this was his first rescue as coxswain along the First Coast.

No matter how good or bad a rescue mission turns out, the crew sits down afterwards and does an evaluation. We talk about how everything went, what was good and was wrong, Kroll said.

In this case, the distressed boaters had survived.

It is how we stay in-check and continue to be successful, he said.

Kroll said he is proud to serve in the Coast Guard, whether he is wearing his uniform or not, he honors the core values of honor respect and devotion to duty. He holds the Coast Guard close to his heart. He looks down to his chest, while referring to his hidden tattoo and quietly chuckles.

“Actually,” he said, “I literally have USCG on my chest.”

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.