Cutter Sea Horse: 87 feet of teamwork and mentorship

By PA3 Nate Cox

 

Small space and tight quarters are the norm on Coast Guard Cutter Sea Horse, resulting in teamwork and close friendships among the crew.

Sounds of engines roaring, kitchen pans clanging and crew laughing compose the soundtrack of life on this boat.

On a cutter this size, camaraderie, mentorship and teamwork are key ingredients to success.

The Sea Horse has a crew of 10 men and women. Each crewmember has a specific job skill they are highly trained in, but must contribute in other ways to help complete the cutter’s missions.

Chief Petty Officer Javier Castillo-Torres is the Engineering Petty Officer and the cutter EMT, trained in medical response. He has been with the Sea Horse over two years.

“With a smaller crew you have more collateral duties,” said Castillo-Torres. “I am an electrician but I have to do mechanical work, be a safety officer and be involved in every mission.”

Castillo-Torres takes it all in stride. He interacts with the crewmembers with a smile and joke ready to launch at any moment. He keeps the mood light while passing down knowledge to junior crewmembers.

Another multi-tasker is the cutter’s chef. As he prepares a meal in the galley, Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Coontz, culinary specialist, can suddenly be called out to the deck to handle lines.

On most days, Coontz cooks food that could rival any restaurant, puts on a lifejacket and throws lines on deck, and quickly changes into a firefighting gear during a main space fire drill.

“On an 87, it is a tight-knit crew,” said Coontz. “Everyone wears different hats. I am crewman of the watch, I am a boarding team member. On an 87, It is a lot more rewarding in the end. It feels good to help the crew in different ways.”

No crewmember on the Sea Horse hesitates to lend a hand or volunteer to help where needed. Supporting shipmates and helping in any way possible ensures the Sea Horse operates at its best.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Brian Driscoll, the ship’s Officer-in-Charge, has been on the Sea Horse since 2015. He established a climate of teamwork and support that permeates through the crew.

“Being the senior-most leader on the cutter is rewarding and exciting,” Driscoll shared. “You realize you have an awesome responsibility for so many other people. It is about customer service in executing our missions, but also my responsibility to my crew to make sure I am culturing an environment for them to make the most of themselves.”

Driscoll shared his leadership philosophy. He offered that patience, working with people when they do not always meet the standard and allowing other crewmembers to bring their own ideas to the table all help to gain buy-in and ownership.

“I want people to feel part of the team,” said Driscoll. “I want them to know they are not seen as just a resource. The ship is only as good as the people it has. The ship’s most important resource is the people.”

The command climate manifests itself amongst the crew in noticeable ways.

With a crew that spends this much time together, keeping morale high and the crew happy is important.

CS2 Coontz’s tactics for keeping the crew’s morale high is by making their favorite meals for them to enjoy after a hard day’s work.

“Cookin’ can either make or break your morale,“ Coontz explained. “If they are in a bad mood, a good meal can make their attitude get better and they don’t even know why.”

Coontz welcomes suggestions and dinner recipes from crewmembers. He often asks if they have a favorite meal from home. He strives to create a homey feeling on the boat and is convinced food is a way to do just that.

Some of the favorite dishes the crew enjoys are chicken and waffles, Cajun chicken pasta and cheesy chicken spaghetti, all dishes Coontz makes from scratch.

“It makes me feel good that they love my cookin’,” shared Coontz. “It means a lot.”

As a day draws to a close you can still hear conversations and laughter roaring from the galley. The crew can be found baking late-night cookies, discussing the opening of the Olympics and playing endless rounds of Mario Kart.

Morale is high, the team bond is strong, and the crew is ready for another day of what the Coast Guard mission brings.