This article originally ran in the RESERVIST Magazine, Issue 4, 2017.
By: Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Levasseur
Guam may be where America’s day begins, but at Station Apra Harbor in Santa Rita, Guam, reservists are known to be busy day and night. The Coast Guard Reserve has a long history of serving the people of the Pacific and continues to play a critical role in the local community.
“Reservists are a valuable asset to Sector Guam because of the experience each member brings as a force multiplier,” said Lt. William White, former Coast Guard Sector Guam command center supervisor. “All of the reservists at Sector Guam are subject matter experts in their civilian professions, and these skill sets and analytical capabilities translate into the high level of performance seen from our reservists. They are extremely important to the unit’s success during contingency operations, such as pre- and post-storm operations associated with typhoons, extended responses for maritime casualties, or training active duty members during the initial stages of qualification.”
Coast Guard reservists maintain civilian careers, while dedicating a weekend a month and two weeks a year to duty and drilling. During these times, they fully augment the station as a complete duty section, allowing a needed break for their active duty shipmates. At Apra Harbor, a station stood up from a boat forces unit in 2008 that has been operating well below their minimum personnel allowance for several years, the integration of the reservists as a full crew has been vital to getting the mission done and reducing crew fatigue.
In March, while conducting necessary night training to maintain currency on qualifications, the all-reservist crew found an overturned vessel with five people clinging to a nearby green marker buoy. They quickly coordinated with the Guam Fire Department and, together, successfully rescued all five people.
During another drill weekend in April, while on night patrol, the crew responded to a disabled boat drifting about four miles off the coast of Guam and safely towed it back to shore.
Answering the call and helping save lives in the community in which they live and love is a second job for these Reserve members, but it’s one they are fully committed to.
“My entire crew is awesome,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Richard Marston, officer in charge of Station Apra Harbor. “These dedicated professionals are, and continue to be, an invaluable asset to the service, the people of Guam and our critical search and rescue partnerships here.”
Chief Petty Officer Brad Dixon, a boatswain’s mate, was the coxswain on the aforementioned cases. Raised on Guam, he’s lived there the past four decades. He’s dedicated time to the station for over 19 years and serves as a real source of continuity and expertise. When he’s not driving boats for the Coast Guard, he’s driving boats as a charter boat captain and a fire lieutenant for Guam Fire Rescue.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Victor Camacho, born and raised on Guam, has been a machinery technician at Station Apra Harbor for over five years, and he’s the station’s only reserve firearms instructor. This ensures the crew maintains their firearms qualifications without trips off island or the expense of bringing in other personnel for training. When Camacho takes off his blue uniform, he puts on another one as a deputy marshal for the Judiciary of Guam.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Gary Baxter is also a machinery technician at Station Apra Harbor. Baxter was prior active-duty Coast Guard. He fell in love with Guam and never left. Transitioning into the reserves, he now works for the University of Guam and as a part-time dive instructor.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyson Damian has been a reservist for two years. He is a boatswain’s mate at Station Apra Harbor and was also born and raised on Guam. When he’s not drilling and training with the Coast Guard, he works as a first mate and Merchant Mariner on commercial ships operating out of Guam.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Arlene Estioca serves as a unit controller with the command center working to manage search and rescue across a vast and remote area.
“Local reservists have an advantage during cases due to regional familiarity and their knowledge of local authorities,” said Estioca. “The Coast Guard reserve has given me the opportunity to serve alongside my active counterparts on a part-time basis. Being a reservist on Guam worked in my favor; I was able to keep my other full-time jobs as a teacher, mother and wife.“
While serving the last five years of my career in Guam, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of the Reserve to Sector Guam,” said Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Epperson, senior reserve officer of Sector Guam. “During my time as the military outload liaison, I witnessed how beneficial it was to activate a small group of qualified reservists with an inherent understanding of the region to support maritime security operations. Many of our reservists are firefighters and police officers that are able to bring a wealth of knowledge to support search and rescue and maritime security operations and to serve as the crucial link between Coast Guard and local government agencies that we depend on to execute these missions."
“Reservists are an indispensable part of the team,” said White, “and each directly contributes to the sector’s success.”
Coast Guard Reserve Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Camacho, Chief Petty Officer Brad Dixon, Petty Officer 2nd Class Robbie Call, Petty Officer 3rd Class Vince Artero and Petty Officer Gary Baxter pause for a photo at Station Apra Harbor in Santa Rita, Guam, April 1, 2017.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Levasseur.