Counting Quals

Lt. j.g. Kris Valdez, the assistant operations officer aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, talks about the affect of wind on the cutter with Petty Officer 1st Class Kenny Cook, a boatswain's mate aboard the Healy, during maneuvering drills in the Bering Sea Sept. 17, 2013. During the drills Cook practiced precision ship handling of the 420-icebreaker under Valdez's instruction. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Lt. j.g. Kris Valdez, the assistant operations officer aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, talks about the effect of wind on the cutter with Petty Officer 1st Class Kenny Cook, a boatswain’s mate aboard the Healy, during maneuvering drills in the Bering Sea Sept. 17, 2013. During the drills Cook practiced precision ship handling of the 420-icebreaker under Valdez’s instruction. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst

A man stands on the deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, blue hardhat atop his head, helping to direct line handlers as a bulky piece of scientific equipment is lowered into the water.

Three days later, a newly qualified smallboat crewman leans over the side of the Healy’s Arctic Survey Boat to retrieve an unmanned aerial system from the icy Arctic Ocean.

Skip ahead another five days a boatswain’s mate aboard the Healy is calling out commands on the bridge as he practices maneuvering the 420-foot icebreaker during man overboard drills in the Bering Sea.

The very next day a crewmember, who reported to the Healy in July, works toward a repair party leader qualification during a fire drill.

What do these four people have in common, other than being stationed on the same Coast Guard cutter?

Quite a bit, actually, as all these people are one person – Petty Officer 1st Class Kenny Cook.

“The Healy crew is optimally manned,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jacob Cass, the Healy’s operations officer. “Having a wide range of qualifications affords us the flexibility we need to accomplish the variety of missions we are tasked to complete.”

Like most Coast Guardsmen serving aboard a cutter, Cook wears enough hats to fill a closet or two. On any given day, he could find himself helping drive the cutter, or six decks below leading the repair party responsible for combating fires and flooding on board.

Permitting this variety of roles and the stark contrast sometimes seen between them is a rigorous, standardized qualification process.

“Getting qualified is Coast Guard-wide,” said Cook. “With the unique missions the Healy has, we’re able to take the same type of qualifications that are across the Coast Guard and apply them to what we are doing here.”

Cook rattled off the number of qualifications he has covered so far and has yet to go. It took him a solid two minutes. Over the next few months he’ll continue learning new jobs, all the way up to officer of the deck, where he will act as the commanding officer’s eyes and ears on the bridge while they are at sea.

“In order to earn qualifications, crewmembers must complete professional qualification standards, job qualification requests, demonstrate judgement and equisite proficiency, and in some cases pass a check ride or oral board,” said Cass. “These are skills they use on a daily basis, always learning and expanding on their proficiency to complete our missions.”

From their homeport in Seattle to the frozen Arctic Ocean, the Healy’s crewmembers rely on one another to stand vigilant watches and know their roles during emergencies. As one person leaves, another steps in to begin the qualification process, it is a never-ending cycle of training and competency development.

Tags: , , , ,