Reaffirming a lifelong devotion

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Richard Whitney, operations specialist, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, Alaska, takes his oath of service aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Mustang Sept. 25, 2012. Chief Warrant Officer James Hendley, Army Retired, who administered Whitney’s first oath of office, he was there again to reaffirm the oath which will bring Whitney to 20 years of service. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Story by Ensign Victoria Stockton.

There’s always a turning point.  For those of us who serve our country, the day we raised our right hands and committed our lives to living out the Coast Guard Core Values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty is deeply etched in our memory.

But what’s probably equally as significant to most Coast Guardsmen is the day they gave their hearts to this service; the day they discovered the Coast Guard and knew they wanted to be part of the organization.

For Chief Petty Officer Richard Whitney, operations specialist, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, that day happened on a stormy afternoon in Seward, Alaska.  It was 1992 and he was just 11 years old.  After spending the morning halibut fishing with his family in a 12-foot rubber raft at Bear Glacier, and then returning to Seward, Whitney wandered off around the docks while his father filleted fish.

He came upon the Coast Guard Cutter Mustang, moored to the pier.  He hung around looking at it for so long that his loitering caught the attention of the Quartermaster 1st Class, who came out on deck and shouted at him, “Whaddya want kid?!”

Whitney replied that he was just looking, to which the quartermaster said “Well then, why don’t you come onboard and get a better look!”

The quartermaster showed young Whitney around the Mustang and when Whitney went to find his father, a few hours later, he was promptly grounded for a week.  But that afternoon onboard the Mustang with the QM1 changed Whitney’s life forever.

20 years later on Sept. 25, 2012, Whitney stepped aboard the Mustang again, this time with his father, mother, wife, in-laws and a few close friends to raise his right hand and re-affirm his oath to the Coast Guard and this nation: a 6-year re-enlistment that will bring him to 20 years of service. 

Although he never served onboard the Mustang, Whitney, an Alaska native, has served in the 17th District for most of his career.  He enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1998 after graduating from High School, and was first stationed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Sedge, now decommissioned, in Homer before attending telecommunications specialist training school.  He then served with Group Ohio Valley in Louisville, Ky., before returning to Alaska to serve onboard the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley in Kodiak.  He followed that with one tour at Marine Safety Office Anchorage and then back to Kodiak aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Munro.  He is currently stationed in the at Sector Anchorage search and rescue command center.

Whitney is known for his precision, discipline, and high standards.  He expects the best from those he manages, but he’s also known for being the first to support his shipmates through anything. 

“He takes a lot of pride in taking care of his people,” said Lt. j.g. Laura Gadziala, who worked with Whitney onboard the Cutter Munro.  “He expects outstanding performance from his people at all times, and in return will stand by them through every step of their professional development.  If you have a question, he knows the policy.  If you need support, he’s got your back.  But he never compromises his high standards.  He’s solid.”

Whitney undoubtedly takes pride in the Coast Guard core values of honor, respect, and devotion to duty, but military discipline came to him at an early age.  His father served for years in the Air Force, his Boy Scoutmaster was an Army warrant officer, and his Junior ROTC was run by an Army first sergeant and a warrant officer.  Despite growing up with the influences of other military services, Whitney never thought twice about which service was right for him.

“It was never an issue,” Whitney said. “I just knew I wanted to be part of the Coast Guard.  When I was a senior in High School I skipped class to enlist.  They told me a Navy lieutenant was going to administer my first Oath of Office, but I refused.  I called Mr. Hendley, the warrant who was my Scout master, and he came down to do it.”

Fourteen years ago Chief Warrant Officer James Hendley, Army Retired, administered Whitney’s first oath of office, he was there again to reaffirm the oath which will bring Whitney to 20 years of service.

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