This article will run in the RESERVIST Magazine, Issue 1, 2018
By: Anastasia Devlin, Reservist
In Atlanta last October, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Adams was in the middle of a suit-and-tie meeting with the senior vice president of his company when his cell phone started ringing. He excused himself from the discussion (hashing out a multi-million dollar proposal) and left to take the call he’d been expecting. It was the mobilization unit from his reserve job at Coast Guard Sector Mobile, Ala.
The marine science technician, a 39-year-old father of three, joined the Coast Guard five years ago. At the time, he’d been looking for a stable insurance plan which would cover the care for his daughter who’d recently been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.
“I found out that I love the MST world,” said Adams. “I wish I’d done it 20 years ago.”
He’d volunteered for the Coast Guard’s response to Hurricane Harvey, so, as the hurricane season intensified, it wasn’t a surprise to be recalled. Adams noted the support of the senior leadership of his company, American States Utilities Services, where he served as an environmental health and safety supervisor. He was pleasantly surprised when he returned to the meeting to tell them he’d been told to report to the Coast Guard’s Hurricane Maria response.
Senior Vice President and Procurement Officer Jim Cotton immediately shook hands with Adams and said he was glad to help him "be able to take off and take care of the nation's business."
Part of our mission statement is "serving those who serve,” said Cotton. “I told him ‘We'll be here when you get back.” It's that simple to me.”
Their love for each other competed only with their love of service.
Adams departed immediately for San Juan, Puerto Rico. His experience as a seasoned and qualified facilities inspector was desperately needed.
“We didn’t have the amount of people ready to do the inspections,” said Adams’ supervisor, Lt. Juan Martinez, head of the Facilities and Containers Branch of the Sector San Juan Prevention Department.
“My job was to go out and do the post-hurricane assessments at waterfront facilities, to help them get back into compliance with the safety and security regulations,” said Adams, who spent much of his deployment working near Fajardo in eastern Puerto Rico, as well as the nearby islands of Culebra and Vieques.
Martinez said Adams had just the right demeanor to sit down with each facility’s security officer and review the corrections, especially when stress was running high. Due to the amount of damage to the island and the dearth of supplies needed for rebuilding structures and perimeters, Adams worked with the facilities to coordinate fair timelines for coming within compliance.
“He had a humble demeanor,” said Martinez. “He understood what people were going through.”
“They were hurting when I was there,” said Adams. “It was tough to push people to get back into compliance when they don’t have power at home.”
With the amount of people brought in to assist with the reconstruction on the island, space in hotels was at a premium, and Coast Guardsmen split hotel rooms. Adams’ roommate was Chief Petty Officer Jeremiah Leos from Sector Miami; he served as the assistant safety officer for Sector San Juan. Leos heard from a fellow deployed Miami shipmate that Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, was dealing with potable water issues. The storage tank on the air station that provided water to the unit and base housing needed tests run to ensure confidence in the water system.
Luckily, Leos knew a water guy.
“He asked if I’d assist in giving the command at Air Station Borinquen some [subject matter expert] advice, and I said absolutely,” said Adams.
“He drove across the island to the air station where he met with Senior Chief Petty Officer Jeffrey Wildes, a full-time firefighter and paramedic from Seattle who’d been recalled to active duty as well.
“He looked at our situation and came up with a plan,” said Wildes, the safety officer for the air station. “He helped us understand our limitations with the current system.”
“When we supply water to that many people, there’s a lot of requirements that we need to meet to call a water system a potable water system,” said Adams. “I assessed the situation and got them pointed toward the local water authority. The sampling was already done in house with the [health services] staff, like they do on cutters. They just needed some extra confidence that the water system was good.”
“This is what the Reserve is all about,” said Wildes. “He’s an MST, but he’s using this outside experience. So many times you think, ‘This guy’s just a BM3, but it turns out he’s an expert in his field. He used his experience to conquer a monumental problem we were having in Borinquen.”
Adams reiterated how much his two jobs complemented each other. Briefing senior level people, both in the Coast Guard and for his civilian job, is something he excels at.
In early December, Adams returned to Mobile, and had no trouble snapping back into his office routine again. He’d brought his work laptop with him to Puerto Rico, and when internet was available, would spend time keeping up with emails and reports, though he wasn’t required to do anything.
“They didn’t ask me to,” said Adams. “I just took the initiative. And the talented individuals I work with banded together to fill in the gaps.”
Adams values both his jobs.
“I want to stay an MST2 for the rest of my life so I can do this work,” he said. “I get enough management in my civilian career – I just like coming to the Coast Guard to do this job.”
Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Adams with his family.
Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Adams.