ISS2 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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Page 35 of 51

Creative North Carolina engineer uses resources to score crucial class seats Chief Petty Officer Donald Wiggins remembers the days when almost every Coast Guard smallboat got underway with an engineer on board. When the Coast Guard's switched its workhorse platform to one with outboards that didn't require an underway engineer, the billet structure changed, small teams of machinery technicians moved to bases that support many surrounding units. Wiggins is a reserve member of the Naval Engineering Support Team in the Coast Guard's Sector Field Office out of Fort Macon, N.C., though his full-time job is with Sunny Point Army Base in Southport, N.C. There, he serves as a mechanic to the unit's fleet of firetrucks and boats. It's a unique position, but one he loves. "Working on boats is what I do," said the chief, who's been at Sunny Point as their main mechanic for six years. "I love getting back into my field." When two new mechanics arrived to help with the work at the Army base, Wiggins called up the Marine Mechanics Institute in Orlando, Fla., and the school agreed to send the instructors to the base, rather than bringing the students down to Florida. The Army's boats use Honda 250 outboards, and the chief recognized a diamond opportunity for other Coast Guard reserve engineers who needed the Honda 225 outboard course. If the instructors were going to teach only three students, what was the harm in adding a few more? He floated the idea past his civilian supervisor, who allowed the chief to offer the seats to the Coast Guard for free. Elated, Wiggins made several phone calls to get the ball rolling. The first was to Scott Humphrey, one of two Honda instructors at the Marine Mechanics Institute. The 225 course is notoriously hard to get for Coast Guardsmen. "The Coast Guard small boats run predominantly off Honda engines, and the only school offered to Coast Guard is at the MMI," said Wiggins. "But with the last few years of funding, it was hard to get reservists to the school, especially when we have to bump an active duty guy to get it. It's crucial to get the junior [engineers] this certification, though. It's where they learn to do maintenance and repairs." Wiggins told Humphries he had a few Coast Guardsmen who needed the class, and he asked him if he'd be willing to combine the 250 course the Army needed with the 225 course the Coast Guard needed. Humphrey agreed. "The engines are very similar," said Humphrey, who's been teaching at MMI for more than a decade. "Really, it's just some subtle changes on the 250." Next, Wiggins called his active duty Coast Guard supervisor, Senior Chief Petty Officer Heather Friedrich. Impressed with his initiative, Friedrich gave her blessing as well. "Everyone should have this class if they're working on these Honda, but it's hard to get them into the class," said Friedrich. "This was a great alternative." Finally, the chief made his most important call to Reserve Force Readiness Staff member, Lt. j. g. Jessica Tull, who was in the middle of a family vacation. "This woman is super woman," said Wiggins. "I don't know how she does it, but she does an excellent job." "We recently did a huge competency cleanup of our personnel list," said Tull, "and that Honda school was one of the requirements we added to our MKs at the NEST." Tull put her family plans on hold for a few hours and began calling around to see which reserve MKs could take a one-week, short-notice leave of absence from their civilian employers for this rare opportunity. Tull kept making phone calls until all five seats were filled with local, reserve engineers, all of whom, with her help, had orders and lodging to boot. "The amount of work these guys do is incredible," said Tull. "[Chief] came to us with an opportunity, and we moved on it and made it happen." Two weeks later, Wiggins and the five other engineers, Petty Officers 1st Class Justin Glen and Dwight Atkinson, and Petty Officers 2nd Class Aki Atsumi, Ronald Little and Stephen Britt, finished the class. Wiggins said the reserve engineers spend time working on issues at the stations and aids-to-navigation teams along the North Carolina coast. This new certification enabled the engineers to better meet the needs of the local units, which is exactly what their chief was looking forward to. "We've got a great reputation with the local EPOs [engineering petty officers]," said Wiggins. "We can go out to our sister stations, and when they have a problem, they know they're in good hands. They know I won't leave my guys hanging. We're very confident and skilled, we got a good group." � — Story by RESERVIST Staff North Carolina reserve engineers hold their graduation certificates from the Marine Mechanic Institute's 225/250 outboard course. From left, instructor Scott Humphrey, Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Glen, Chief Petty Officer Donald Wiggins, Petty Officers 2nd Class Aki Atsumi, Ronald Little and Stephen Britt, and Petty Officer 1st Class Dwight Atkinson. All six engineers graduated the course April 20. Photo courtesy of Chief Petty Officer Donald Wiggins 34 RESERVIST � Issue 2 • 2018

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