Kodiak is king of the pins

KODIAK, Alaska - Seaman Tiffany Pulliam, left, Seaman Lori Aguero, Bob White, Tsunami Lanes Bowling Center manager, and Seaman Kathy Jim pose for a group photo at the bowling alley on Coast Guard Base Kodiak May 4, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally.

KODIAK, Alaska - Seaman Tiffany Pulliam, left, Seaman Lori Aguero, Bob White, Tsunami Lanes Bowling Center manager, and Seaman Kathy Jim pose for a group photo at the bowling alley on Coast Guard Base Kodiak May 4, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally.

A loud thud followed by a dull roar thunders across the building as a bright orange ball races down a bowling lane. A loud punctuating crash reverberates through the small room as 10 white pins with two red stripes fly around a cage. A victorious bowler raises his fist to show triumph at the recent strike.

Similar sounds and reactions repeat as bowlers continue to knock pins down. As balls thunder down their lanes striking pins, one ball gets stuck in the gutter and fallen pins don’t get cleared. A call for assistance goes out and a bowling alley employee helps correct the problem.

Coast Guard Base Kodiak has multiple components that make up the Morale, Welfare and Recreation department. One particularly entertaining option is the Tsunami Lanes Bowling Center. It’s a place for Coast Guardsmen, families and friends to gather for morale and good old fashioned fun. Those celebrating birthday parties and even non-profit organizations holding annual events are able to take part in the entertainment.

What many don’t realize as they toss a 10-pound ball down the lane is the hard work and dedication it takes to keep largest bowling alley owned by the Coast Guard running. The Coast Guard also owns and operates MWR bowling alleys at Cape Cod, Mass., Petaluma, Calif., and the Coast Guard Academy in New Londo, Conn.  The Tsunami Lanes personnel take pride when caring for the eight-lane bowling alley’s multiple gears on a regular schedule.

“The machinery required to run the bowling alley has to be oiled and adjusted on a regular basis and probably has more moving parts than a C-130,” said Bob White, manager for Tsunami Lanes and retired boatswain’s mate of 22 years. “We have to be proficient in fixing the equipment here because unlike a bowling alley down south we can’t have someone in the back all the time.”

White explained that in the lower 48, most bowling alleys have a head mechanic and two or three assistants working the machinery in the back to fix problems with a lane as needed. He also explained other bowling alleys have enough personnel to man the counters and all the other jobs required to run a bowling alley.

“I’m the only permanent employee who actually works at the bowling alley,” said White. “Currently I have three Coast Guard seamen who work with me to maintain the equipment. It typically takes about three weeks of on-the-job training to familiarize them with very basic maintenance issues on the equipment.”

Seaman Tiffany Pulliam, a Tsunami Lanes employee, joined the Coast Guard to help save lives not maintain an MWR facility, but finds she can still make a difference in people’s lives working at the bowling alley.

“Although there’s a lot to learn, I enjoy working at the bowling alley and making people smile, and it makes me proud to know I make a difference with the friends and families of deployed Coast Guardsmen,” said Pulliam. “It may not be a job a seamen desires to have but it’s not a job to be ashamed of doing in the Coast Guard.”

Pulliam said that everyone has to play a part to help maintain morale for deployed families. She also mentioned the bowling alley personnel would come in on their days off and holidays to open for visiting Coast Guard cutters, because it’s important to support the Coast Guard family.

“I enjoy working when we have birthday parties or when the local schools come to bowl, because I love working with kids,” said Pulliam. “We also have the local teen center come in to put on events, which is great because we are able to support our local community with these types of events.”

Pulliam noted that learning the mechanical aspect of the machines has been a challenge, but she is working on responding to issues more efficiently and effectively.

“Another challenge we have to deal with is customer service,” said Pulliam. “Most people are satisfied, but sometimes we have to work with unhappy customers and it can be hard to keep your cool.”

There are a lot of challenges and maintenance issues at the Tsunami Lanes, but White, Pulliam and the other seamen keep the bowling alley running smoothly on a daily basis.

“Seeing the smiles of satisfied customers as they walk out after having a good time with friends or family makes all the challenges and hard work well worth it,” said Pulliam. “Like I said before, this is not a job seamen should be ashamed of because we do make a difference in the lives of the Coast Guardsmen and their families here in Kodiak.”

To view more photos of the bowling alley click here.

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