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Living as a Coast Guardsman: Unit Piedmont's Danielle Wingler experiences all Station Milford Haven has to offer

posted Sep 25, 2013, 5:24 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Mar 25, 2014, 11:48 AM by Unknown user ]
Danielle Wingler, AUP Unit Piedmont student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, reflects on her summer internship from June 1 to July 31 at Coast Guard Station Milford Haven in Hudgins, Va.

My Auxiliary University Programs internship this past summer started with a four-hour road trip from Raleigh, N.C., to Hudgins, Va., on June 1. I arrived at Station Milford Haven around 8 a.m. and, while it was hard to find the driveway into the station my first time there, everything around me looked beautiful in the dawn light. I thought I hit the jackpot when I saw the water that first day; I was excited to be spending my summer in the Chesapeake Bay area. I was in an area I have never been in, I did not know anyone, and was about to do something I have never done before – it was surreal and I could not wait for the adventure to begin.

Pictured left: Wingler drives the 41-foot Utility Boat at Coast Guard Station Milford Haven, Va. under the supervision of Chief Petty Officer Dickinson. U.S. Coast Guard photo by auxiliarist Stephanie Hutton.

During my two months at the station, I slept on one of the top racks in the female berthing. I worked, ate, and socialized with the active duty personnel day after day. A few helped me celebrate my twentieth birthday in late June since I was so far from home and was committed to staying the full two months at the station. I watched as personnel were switched out at the station for their new assignments. I did a morale field day with members from Aids to Navigation Team Milford Haven at Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads headquarters in Portsmouth, Virginia, as well. It was intriguing to witness the daily routine at the station, one into which I had fully integrated soon after my arrival.

Pictured right: Wingler, on right, participates in a flare and dye marker exercise at Coast Guard Station Milford Haven, Va. U.S. Coast Guard photo by auxiliarist Stephanie Hutton.

I was able to go out on the 55-foot Aids to Navigation Boat with ANT Milford Haven personnel to see what they do every day to maintain safe, navigable waterways. I watched as a few Coast Guardsmen, laden with harnesses, transferred from the bow of the boat to the ladder of the Wolf Trap Light Station in the Chesapeake Bay. The current structure is almost 120 years old! I also went out at night and watched the crew work on the vessel and go through training evolutions with the other boats from the station.

I spent a lot of time underway on the 41-foot Utility Boat, and, while it was docked, I helped and observed as engineers and firemen worked in the engine room. I was able to get behind the helm a few times with the supervision of Chief Petty Officer Dickenson and other coxswains. The other vessels I was able to spend time on were the two 25-foot Response Boat - Small docked at the station. Most of my underway time was patrols, but I was able to help with during a search and rescue case that lasted around six hours.

Pictured left:
Sunset at Coast Guard Station Milford Haven, Va. U.S. Coast Guard photo by auxiliarist Danielle Wingler.

If I wasn’t underway or in my berthing, I was most likely found in the communications room. I was able to do about 50 cumulative hours of radio guard by myself once I was qualified to be a Communications Watchstander late June. I was also able to finish the Auxiliary Telecommunications Qualification under the mentorship of Mr. Joe Safranek, Division 6 Commander. I spent a lot of my time at the station listening to marine radios and observing the procedures for SAR cases from within the communications room.

Pictured right: An evening rainbow streaks across the sky above Coast Guard Station Milford Haven, Va. U.S. Coast Guard photo by auxiliarist Danielle Wingler.

I experienced a whole lot during my two
months at Station Milford Haven this summer. The active duty personnel
showed me the daily life of a Coast Guardsman and appreciate greatly the way they openly accepted me as a member of their team. I left the station around 11:00 AM on July 31st after Chief Dickenson presented me with a challenge coin from the station, which I take with me wherever I am. This internship was an absolute success and allowed me to explore a possible career path and spend time on the water with a superb organization.