Station Barnegat Light, NJ, welcomes surfman #459


BARNEGAT LIGHT, N.J.- Petty Officer 1st Class James Corbisiero, a boatswain's mate from Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light, stands in front of the station's 47-foot Motor Life Boats Oct. 25, 2011. Corbisiero recently earned his surfman qualification, which is the highest qualification a boat driver can achieve. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Cynthia Oldham.

Post written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Cynthia Oldham

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class James Corbisiero, a boatswain’s mate aboard Station Barnegat Light, N.J., is wearing a new uniform insignia this week. Corbisiero has earned the highest certification a boat operator can achieve; he has earned the title of Coast Guard Surfman #459.

There are less than 165 surfmen tucked within the Coast Guard’s nearly 5000 active duty boatswain’s mates, it is a title that takes years of instruction and a strong sense of pride to earn. According to the Surfman Management Program, few coxswains possess the skills and desire to complete the long and difficult training process.

Corbisiero began earning his way to be a surfman when he reported to the station more than three years ago. He has trained in the unpredictable Atlantic Ocean and he completed the Heavy Weather Coxswain course at the National Motor Lifeboat School located just outside of Ilwaco, Wash., in what is often called the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”

A surfman is an expert Coast Guard boat coxswain trusted to safely operate lifeboats in extreme weather conditions. It is when all other vessels fail that the surfman and their 47-foot Motor Life Boat crew must succeed.

Surfman are specially trained, through hands-on experience at their stations and at NMLBS to operate the MLB in the ocean’s breaking surf.

“There are only 20 designated surf units in the Coast Guard, four on the East Coast and the rest lay along the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jay Greiner, commanding officer of Station Barnegat Light.

The job is only open to boatswain’s mates who are courageous, committed and assigned to a surf unit. Only about one out of every 25 people who attempt to become a surfman earns the title.

At Station Barnegat Light, there are four duty-standing surfman who are required to be on the MLB every time weather conditions dictate, said Greiner. Having Corbisiero certified as a surfman adds to the unit’s readiness and life-saving capabilities.

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