Reservist

ISS1 2018

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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and accommodated interviews. "Planes were constantly handling supplies and Coast Guard families were being offloaded at Air Station Clearwater," Sara said. "I have not experienced displaced Coast Guard families before, and here I was one myself." She was thrust into a new role – she'd never stood duty before, and now the calls were constant. In early November, her orders were up and it was finally deemed safe enough for Sara, her son, her in-laws and her cat to return home. She had seen Bert a total of three days since the hurricanes hit. "It was a very trying time for our family and for our marriage," Sara said. "Just going through a hurricane in general is extremely difficult. I am blessed, because I have such a great support structure around me. I couldn't have handled the relief efforts if my husband wasn't taking care of the home and my in-laws weren't taking care of Myles. Also, it's really hard to feel helpful when you're helpless – when you have no home to go home to and you're not with your family – but other people still had it worse." In addition to the support of her family, Sara said she appreciated the behind-the-scenes view of the coordination it takes to support the responders who do the hands-on work in crisis response. "There's more to a response then the disaster zone. There's so many logistical aspects to a disaster response that both the external and internal audience take for granted because they don't see it." � l ast October, Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Graham boarded one of the emptiest flights he'd ever been on when he left New York to fly to Puerto Rico. He landed on the western side of the island at an old Air Force base. He immediately learned the importance of a good personal technology/communication plan. "My [cell]phone didn't have service, but luckily, my point of contact was waiting for me at the airport," said Graham, who'd arrived just three weeks after the storm made landfall on the island. The hurricane was the worst natural disaster on record for its residents. Graham's objective was simple: he would support Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen clinic in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, in its mission to maintain service to military members and their dependents. Executing his mission proved to be much more challenging. "The air station's clinic was completely destroyed by the hurricane, so we were operating in a makeshift space that was significantly smaller," recalled Graham. "Imagine you and your coworkers pick up your computers and supplies from your workspace and then move into a workspace that's two or three times smaller." In addition to servicing a higher than normal patient count due to response efforts in the area, he also supported the flight surgeon. "An air station clinic is different than other Coast Guard clinics, because they assess the medical readiness of aviators and their supporting crews," said Graham. "After every patient encounter, we issued either an 'up-chit,' indicating that the member is authorized to fly, or a 'down-chit,' indicating that the member is prohibited from flying until their condition resolves. It was definitely a learning experience for me." Graham, 34, is a member of the clinic staff at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore. He joined the Coast Guard Reserve in 2013 as a way to change his career path away from financial regulation. "I certainly appreciate the work that financial regulators do, but it wasn't for me. I felt like I was just pushing papers around," he said. "I wanted a 180-degree career change. I wanted pursue something that would enable me to make a more tangible difference in people's lives, so I became [a health services technician] in order to help jumpstart my career in healthcare." During his deployment to Puerto Rico, Graham would occasionally spend his off-duty hours going on humanitarian aid runs with the local fire department, delivering food and water to smaller communities around Aguadilla. He even helped make a direct impact in the life of a local resident. "One of the civilian employees at the clinic was without electricity for over two months, and her home was destroyed by the hurricane," said Graham. "We all pitched in and surprised her with a new generator." After a 60-day mobilization, Graham departed Puerto Rico in early December to return home to Brooklyn, N.Y. There, he's working on completing the prerequisite college classes to apply to occupational therapy school, but if the opportunity to return to Puerto Rico arose, Graham would be ready. "I'd hop on a plane tomorrow and head back," he said. � (At press time, Graham was headed down to Borinquen on another set of orders through the end of March.) hs 3 m ichael g raham ➡ Borinquen, p uerto r ico By p etty o fficer 2nd c lass m ichael h imes a ir Station Borinquen clinic staff during Hurricane Maria response. Graham is fourth from the left. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Graham Issue 1 • 2018 � RESERVIST 27

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