Pilot, Mentor & Leader
Posted by PAC Nick Ameen, Thursday, September 10, 2015
There are approximately 275 crewmembers at Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, New Jersey. Their roles are widely varied, from maintaining helicopters and ordering supplies to providing medical services and ensuring training proficiency.
The bustling air station is a fairly complex organization within the Coast Guard’s aviation model, carrying out search and rescue, law enforcement and national security missions. Its motto is “Fly Like A Champion Today!”
Formed in 1998 with the closures of Air Station Brooklyn and Air Station Cape May, the unit grew to 10 airframes, all of which are MH-65 Dolphin helicopters. Responsible for all these people, missions and aircraft is the air station’s commanding officer.
“Keeping an eye on every facet of day-to-day operations is nearly impossible,” said Capt. Pete Mingo, the commanding officer of Air Station Atlantic City. “I empower leaders at every level to make decisions and to be accountable. I have been blessed with an exceptional group of professionals, and they teach me far more than I can impart on them.”
Mingo’s mindset of empowering his people is echoed in his thoughts about the unit’s senior enlisted members — the chief petty officers.
“The Chiefs’ Mess here is unparalleled, and I rely on them extensively,” said Mingo. “They set the unit tone and shape our future leaders.”
The air station’s top enlisted member, Master Chief Petty Officer Steve Doria, serves as Mingo’s enlisted advisor.
“My role as the command master chief is to advise the commanding officer and the executive officer on the wellbeing of the enlisted folks,” said Doria. “I’m involved in a wide spectrum of topics and issues, dedicated to not just the aviation engineering folks, but to all the different departments here.”
Being A Pilot
“If you’ve defied gravity once, you understand the attraction to flight and the persistent desire to fly again,” said Mingo. “When you couple the Coast Guard’s purpose to the structure of our aviation programs, I cannot think of a better method to fulfill the need to fly.”
Mingo has flown several Coast Guard airframes for both traditional and not-so-traditional missions.
“After thousands of flight hours at hundreds of locations for dozens of missions — both land- and cutter-based — I cannot think of a better career path,” said Mingo. “Given the opportunity, I’d fly every single day. Despite some of the perceived hurdles, I would encourage every recently assessed person to consider a career in Coast Guard aviation.”
National Capital Region Air Defense Facility
Air Station Atlantic City provides multiple aircraft and crews to protect the nation’s capital on a 24/7 basis at the National Capital Region Air Defense Facility under the operational control of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
“Maintaining the NCRADF is both an interesting and rewarding challenge,” said Mingo. “We support the facility through a continuous cycle of deployed crewmembers, including personnel from several satellite rotary-wing air-intercept units.”
While there is a constant rotation of pilots and aircrew cycling through NCRADF deployments, there is a core of highly trained, permanently assigned personnel.
“This combination of talent effectively solves the majority of our challenges,” said Mingo. “The national significance of this mission — protecting some of our country’s most important air space — is immensely satisfying, fostering incredible dedication amongst our crews.”
Working With Partner Agencies
Air Station Atlantic City is a tenant of the Federal Aviation Administration’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey.
“Our FAA partners are exceedingly gracious and have been since the unit arrived in 1998,” said Mingo. “We also have the benefit of being neighbors with the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing. They provide fantastic administrative support and are one of our operational partners within the air defense mission set.”
Mingo said the list of partners for whom he is thankful is too long to list, but his gratitude is plenty.
“Our operational methodology is predicated on a whole-of-government approach,” said Mingo. “We operate with a sincere appreciation for each other’s mission objectives, and the result is an incredibly successful air defense team. Much of our unit’s success can be attributed to the relationships we maintain both in Atlantic City and in Washington.”
Mentorship In The Wardroom
Being a commissioned officer in the Coast Guard is a prerequisite for becoming a pilot in the service. With a crew as large as Air Station Atlantic City’s, there comes a lot of mentorship in the wardroom.
“With approximately 65 officers, mentorship requires continuous attention,” said Mingo. “First and foremost, I ask everyone to develop a set of personal and professional goals and continually examine, refine, and set new goals as they attain success.”
Mingo asks officers to bring solutions, not the problems that elicit their concerns.
“We are a solution-based organization and lamenting in the negative stifles creativity and can derail peers and subordinates,” said Mingo. “I ask officers to own their actions, both good and not so good. With great regard for the consequences of our profession, learning from each other’s experiences is critical in preventing catastrophic failure. Not sharing your experiences with other aircrews, especially those with a high probability for danger, is tantamount to negligence. And besides, who doesn’t like to hear a good ‘There I was’ story?
“I’m incredibly proud to be the commanding officer of this unit,” said Mingo. “Many days I approach the building in awe of what gets accomplished here. It’s cliché, but this is truly the best job in the Coast Guard. The air station’s philosophy is simple: Take care of the people, have pride in our service and missions, and be the professional you are capable of being … every single day.”