It’s an MK life for me

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To close out our week we sat down with Chief Petty Officer Brian Smith, a chief machinery technician, and got his 21-year take on the world of MKs.

He talked about some of the different MK jobs, training they receive, and even some words of wisdom only a chief can provide about becoming a Coast Guard MK!

Q: How long have you been in the Coast Guard? As an MK?
A: I’ve been in the Coast Guard almost 21 years and I’ve been an MK for about 18 of those years.

Q: What have been some of the units you served at?
A: I served on a 133-foot buoy tender that we decommissioned in ‘98, I’ve done a couple 270s, and a 378. Here at sector engineering is my first land job as a rated MK. I also did a NESU and I spent 4 years working with MSTs at a preventions office in Detroit.

Q: Tell me a little about the MK rate.
A: It is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding job! Our jobs spans every unit the Coast Guard has. One tour may have you working on main Diesel engines the size of a truck, then go to a station where you’re in charge of the damage control equipment or electrical maintenance.

Q: What are some of the differences between an MK, say on a cutter versus a station MK?
A: Everything is about the same. When you break down the bare bones of our rating everything is the same, pumps are pumps, valves are valves and engines are engines. The differences are in your collateral duties. On a black hull you may be tasked as crane operator or safety supervisor, more on the deck side. On a white hull your collateral can be small boat engineer or boarding team member.

Q: As an MK how much training do you all receive to deal with all the different machinery?
A: A lot is on the job training, but there is pipeline training. Say you’re going to a cutter so that’ll be, as an example, ALCO251 training which is 6 days at Great Lakes Training Center with the Navy. Then generator training which is a week long, a hydraulics school which is 21-days long, a console operators course for the EOW console at another week-long course.

ATLANTIC OCEAN - Petty Officer 1st Class Matt Hare hands Chief Petty Officer Brian Smith a lube oil sample as the crew works to remove a failed reduction gear lube oil pump aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Dallas Feb. 7, 2012. This is the fourth time engineers have had to change the pump on Cutter Dallas' current patrol. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

ATLANTIC OCEAN – Petty Officer 1st Class Matt Hare hands Chief Petty Officer Brian Smith a lube oil sample as the crew works to remove a failed reduction gear lube oil pump aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Dallas Feb. 7, 2012. This is the fourth time engineers have had to change the pump on Cutter Dallas’ current patrol. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Q: All that?
A: That’s just machinery! There’s also the auxiliary side of the house to include an HVAC school and a locker leader school for the A-Gang MKC.

Q: What kind of leadership opportunities are there in the engineering, or MK world?
A: There’s a ton of them. BMs and MKs are the two largest rates so you’re always going to have people under you. As a Fireman on a larger platform you’ll have 2-to-3 other Firemen working for you. As the leading Fireman you’re in charge of making sure the day-to-day cleanups are complete, stuff is secured for sea. Then you make MK3 and now YOU have 4, even 6 non-rates under you.

Q: What about you?
A: I went from the main prop chief to a command chief on a 270. Not only did I have 7 personnel underneath me there but then responsible for about 100 people! Pretty much the opportunities are wide open for leadership.

Q: How about females in the MK rating?
A: Some of our better MKs are females because they’re constantly trying to prove they know exactly what you know and they can do the job too! Watching them work and run circles around the guys on the boat because they give a crap about their job and want to put out the best possible work. In order to do that they need to outshine someone else. That’s not fair, but in the end their marks will reflect it, their awards will reflect it and their reputation on the boat will reflect it.

Q: What would you tell someone interested in MK?
A: I’ll send them to any unit, an ANT, a small boat station I’ll even tell them to go to the Eagle to see what a really old main engine looks and I’ll let them make a decision on that. Keep in mind its a lot of hard work, a lot of long hours, the rewards side of the house is that you did your job. You had a successful SAR case, you pulled that person out of the water; it wasn’t because of excellent boat driving, but because you left the pier. You first had to leave the pier and it was your engine that did that. The main engines were lit off because you did the work in port. On the cutter you had light the entire time you were underway because of the work YOU did on the generators.

Q: Any last words?
A: Being some of the most hardest working people in the Coast Guard, that’s what being an MK is all about!

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