[from the stabenow.com vaults, first posted February 19, 2004]
I know that for the past two weeks I’ve been writing what amounts to a recruiting poster. All I can tell you is that I wrote what I saw.
Was I able to write about everything I saw? Of course I wasn’t. The Coast Guard’s first responsibility is homeland defense. Operational security required that I ignore some things, downplay others, and to speak in only the most general terms of our geographic location. But what I wrote is what happened.
Did everything go right? Of course not. A coupling between one of the shafts and one of the engines went out, reducing our top speed by about 5 knots. The EO and his gang were up all of one night and two days figuring out what to do about it. We had to scrap boardings due to weather. There was the usual friction between shore and sea, between officer and enlisted man, between aviators and sailors, between bureaucracy and human being.
But if I were 18 again, this is where I’d want to be. I’d get to work with a bunch of smart, capable people, I’d get to play with large, powerful toys, I’d literally get to see the world from Alaska to Antarctica and all points in between, and, best of all, I’d be helping people and saving lives. (Joining up might not even interfere with my writing. Look at the name on this ship.)
One morning I heard a young lee helmsman, standing watch at the throttles which control the Alex Haley’s 6800 horsepower, say, “This is so cool.”
You’re right, kid. It is.
My thanks to the men and women of the Alex Haley for making me so welcome, for tolerating my colossal ignorance, and for being so willing to answer my million questions. You keep telling me it’s just a job, and that you’re not heroes.