Keeping the Coast Guard Flying

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremiah J. Strombeck stands in front of a C-130 Hercules aircraft.  Everyday AETs like Strombeck work hard on these and other aircraft.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremiah J. Strombeck stands in front of a C-130 Hercules aircraft. Everyday AETs like Strombeck work hard on these and other aircraft.

By PA3 Canup.

A malfunctioning wire hidden among hundreds of other wires aboard a C-130 aircraft can cause a critical error. A light that should normally be unlit may start flashing, causing alarm to the entire crew. Software critical to a mission might glitch causing a safety concern. Every day several problems arise that could bring a Coast Guard mission to a halt.

Keeping these problems at bay are avionics electrical technicians. These Coast Guard men and women troubleshoot and fix the electrical and software issues that would otherwise leave an aircrew grounded, unable to save lives. Before the storm and before the rescue, AETs ensure the Coast Guard is ready.

One of these hard-working AETs is Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremiah J. Strombeck. Having worked a desk job, he longed for more adventure in his life. Spending some time traveling and skiing in California, Strombeck had an epiphany after he fell off a 30-foot cliff and broke his hand.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremiah J. Strombeck and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeff McLeod inspect and discuss the inside of a MH-60 Jayhawk. AETs are always ready to repair a number of issues their aircraft may have.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremiah J. Strombeck and Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeff McLeod inspect and discuss the inside of a MH-60 Jayhawk. AETs are always ready to repair a number of issues their aircraft may have.

From there Strombeck joined the Coast Guard and entered into the AET program. He worked hard to pass through the extensive and complex training at the Aviation Technical Training Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

Strombeck said he got through the school with a lot of prayer, a lot of studying and surfing. After that Strombeck was sent to his first and current unit, Air Station Elizabeth City. It was there he learned the ropes, or wires, of his career and experienced AET work such as fixing electronics, working on radars and software, and aiding in missions such as ice patrols and drug interdictions.

“I love our missions,” says Strombeck. “I joined to go places and I’ve seen the world. There’s so much.  We’re always going somewhere. Our mission is making an impact.”

Strombeck also teaches the newer AETs multiple facets of the rate.

“The best part about my job right now is I have junior people under me who are learning troubleshooting,” said Strombeck. “The plane breaks, I’m the guy to show the younger generation how to fix it, but on top of that, I get to show them the mission’s system, how to find the bad guys on the radar and talk on the radio securely. It’s kind of a jack-of-all-trades type of thing.”

Every day after the morning brief Strombeck and his fellow AETs work on any issues the aircraft may be encountering. Repairs, maintenance and inspections occur often to ensure the aircraft fly at peak condition.

The workload can be heavy at times with the rate itself being small. Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeff McLeod, also an AET at Air Station Elizabeth City, knows far too well the workload placed upon his shoulders.

McLeod said the rate was hardworking but shorthanded.

“But when a problem comes up, you just do it, the job gets done,” said McLeod.

“That’s your primary role, make sure that plane stays up,” said Strombeck. “Once you’re up, you take that hat off and put the other hat on. You’re a missions operator. You’re finding targets and then video recording it from the air while you talk to other assets to coordinate a bust — and that’s just one example.”

So before a fisherman becomes lost in the storm, before a Coast Guard aircrew launches to rescue him, there are AETs making sure the crew has an aircraft ready to brave the elements. No matter what the electrical or software malfunction, AETs keep the Coast Guard flying.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremiah J. Strombeck inspects the inside of a C-130 Hercules aircraft.  A single wire can hinder a mission.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremiah J. Strombeck inspects the inside of a C-130 Hercules aircraft. A single wire can hinder a Coast Guard Mission.