ISS1 2019

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

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Coast Guard chief warrant ofcer originally joined military to travel Renier Hernandez always wanted to be in law enforcement and it was the Navy, after a short time working an aircraft carrier flight deck, that gave him that. Hernandez was born in Puerto Rico after his parents had fled Cuba. The family arrived in Hialeah, Fla., in 1976. Hernandez grew up there. His first exposure to the military was through the World War II movies that his father loved to watch. Hernandez's second exposure came when he joined the Civil Air Patrol when he was in high school with its emphasis on service, structure and discipline, and because he came into frequent contact with military service members. "It basically molded me for military life," Hernandez said. He saw his career choices as either law enforcement in Miami, which his parents disapproved of because of the drug violence at that time, or the military. "I decided on military service because I wanted to travel," Hernandez said, a goal which also aimed him at the Navy. He was sent to basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois and then on to his first duty station aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln just as it was being commissioned in November 1989. Hernandez was assigned on the flight deck as a blue shirt aircraft handler, who assists in moving and tying down the F-14, F-18, A-6, A-7 and A-2 aircraft that called the Abraham Lincoln home. Along with yellow shirts, the aircraft directors; the red shirts, who handle ordnance or deal with crashes; purple shirts, who fuel the aircraft; and green shirts, who handle the carrier's catapults, it was a carefully choreographed military ballet. "It was an art," Hernandez said of the challenging duty. "You had to have your head on swivel, especially at night." With a schedule of planes launching and recovering, the only break the on-duty deck crew got was between the two. Hernandez said his worst enemy was the jets' exhausts. He said plane handlers braced for "an intense heat where you felt half your body was cooking." He was soon moved to the flight deck control, which involved "the Ouija board," a flight deck replica where Hernandez and others constantly updated the location and status of all of the aircraft. Hernandez and the Abraham Lincoln were sent around the Horn to the Pacific to replace the USS Enterprise at Alameda. The carrier got orders in May 1991 to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. "On the way to the Gulf, we were diverted to the Philippines because Mount Pinatubo erupted," Hernandez said. "We were to evacuate Clark Air Base and Naval Base Subic Bay." There was volcanic ash everywhere and aircraft had to be covered to protect them. The Abraham Lincoln's sailors gave up their bunks to the evacuees, which the carrier was going to ferry from Subic Bay to Cebu Island. "The carrier was going to be a floating hotel," Hernandez said. "We were taking everyone, family members, the animals." There was even an enclosure set up on the hangar deck to house all the pets that the evacuees brought with them. After a week of moving evacuees, the Abraham Lincoln resumed its passage to the Persian Gulf, which Hernandez said "was the hottest place I had ever been." With temperatures on the flight deck reaching 112 degrees, hydration was critical "and we had to watch each other." The Iranians, though neutral, tested the alertness of the fleet continually while Hernandez was in the Gulf. Hernandez said it was an impressive sight to see U.S. naval aviation in action, sending out missions to support coalition operations against the Iraqi army in Kuwait and Iraq. While on the carrier, Hernandez had made petty officer third class and was then transferred to security, which would prove to be the career in which he would spend the rest of his Navy and Coast Guard life. "I finally got to do something I really wanted to do," Hernandez said. Duty was initially walking the berthing areas and decks to enforce regulations. Not long after, he became a command investigator, which involved working on shipboard crimes that could range from petty theft to assault. RESERVIST MAGAZINE SHIPMATES IN FOCUS Navy/Coast Guard veteran Renier Hernandez works for the Solano District Attorney's ofce. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic) 32 RESERVIST � Issue 1 • 2019

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