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|An up close and personal interview with U.S. Coast Guard Veteran and Togetherweserved.com Member:|
CMC Bruce R Bradley U.S. Coast Guard (Ret) (1977-2010)
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
Having been born and raised in the military (U.S. Army), it seemed like a natural progression that I would follow this path. The deal was sealed for the US Coast Guard when I first saw the 44ft MLBs working on the bar at Cape Disappointment, WA. I knew right there and then that I had found my calling and career.
When I was 16 I was awarded the Boy Scout Honor medal (w/Crossed Palms) and the Silver Lifesaving Medal for saving another Scout from drowning. The Boy Scouts also served as a basis for my life transition into the military.
WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
I consider myself truly blessed that I was able to spend the vast majority of my Coast Guard career as an operational boat driving Boatswains Mate. The longer I stayed in, the more challenging the assignments I was given. When you have ultimate command at sea, well, how can it get any better?
I joined the Coast Guard to run small boats and that is exactly what I ended up doing and greatly enjoying. I was lucky enough to qualify all the way up to Surfman.
But then I needed a break from the Station life so I was allowed to go to sea and discovered my true love, being at sea. I consider myself extremely lucky that I served 17 years at sea on 9 different cutters, including command of three 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boats.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
Not in the true sense of real combat operations. I was however a member of the forces deployed to Haiti for Operation Secure Tomorrow in 2004, which was ordered by President Bush to protect American interests in Haiti after the departure of President Aristide and the ensuing riots.
In addition, back in the 1970's I was an active participant in "The War on Drugs".
WHICH, OF THE VESSELS OR DUTY STATIONS YOU WERE ASSIGNED TO, DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY?
USCGC IRIS because it had the best crew, in the truest sense of the word. Our operational area was unbelievable and it was the best tour of my career. I am still a card carrying member of the IRIS International Poker Association.
USCGC BARRACUDA because it was my first command afloat, enough said.
Training Center Cape May as the Command Master Chief because it was leadership at a whole new level in a different world. The energy of the next generation of Guardians that come through that traning center is so fantastic. There is a sense of renewal there on a daily basis.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
My tour as a BM1 on-board USCGC IRIS (WLB-395) out of Astoria Oregon, 1990 to 1993 was one of the most challenging and unique operational areas in the service. I have never served with a better group of true sailors, they were a real crew. (If I have to explain that, you wouldn't understand anyway.)
Working the largest buoys in the Coast Guard's inventory uner the harshest weather and sea conditions was an unbelievable challenge. It was a great chance to expand and work on both my leadership and professional abilities at the same time.
It was also during this tour that we lost the F/V SEA KING on the Columbia River Bar, along with two fisherman and MK1 Charles Sexton. These are memories and sights you never forget.
WERE ANY OF THE MEDALS OR AWARDS YOU RECEIVED FOR VALOR? IF YES, COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW THIS WAS EARNED?
No awards for valor, but I received a few for heroism in Search and Rescue operations.
OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
My Cutterman and Surfman (#172) insignia. These two devices defined the vast majority of my career as a Boatswains Mate.
As I said earlier I joined the Coast Guard wanting to be a Motor Lifeboat Surfman and was able to achieve that distinction. I learned a lot during that process, including a very valuable life lesson on goal setting.
I consider my Cutterman designation my most prized insignia and believe that "underway is the only way". Leaving my last cutter was a tough day and I choose to keep my Change of Command quick and simple because I knew I would never again have the opportunity to get underway.
My Officer in Charge Ashore and Afloat insignias should also be mentioned. My personal opinion is that any Boatswain's Mate who makes this service and this rate their life's pursuit, isn't worth their salt without earning all four of these insignias.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
To name just one person, well, that would not be fair in my opinion. And the list would be too long to try to capture them all. But some of the key people who helped get me to where I did in the service were:
BMCM Bill Galloway, my Company Commander as a BMC and then later the OinC of the POINT WELLS when I was at Station Montauk.
CWO Ed Pistel, just a great early mentor.
BMCM Ed Michels, my OinC at Station Montauk.
BMC Dave Lorange, my Chief from the IRIS who taught me what I know about buoy deck operations and then allowed me to experiment and perfect my skills.
LCDR Dick Lange and LCDR Vic Pounds, my Commanding Officers on IRIS.
LT Don Ouellette, my Executive Officer on IRIS.
CAPT Chuck Beck, my Group Commander in Boston and a Sailor's Sailor.
BMCM Royce Heckendorn, my classmate in CPO Academy Class XL and longtime career mentor.
CAPT Ted Lefeavre, my Group Commander and exceptional pilot at Humboldt Bay.
VADM Dave Pekokse and RADM Tim Sullivan, both mentors, advisors and friends from very early on in my career through the end.
CMC Mike Wilton, when I was learning about being a Command Master Chief, Mike was there.
More life long friends than I can list here who I have always been able to count on for anything and everything.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Thirty-two hours offshore on a 44ft MLB on a SAR case. It wasn't so much the situation, but the conversations that took place. And if you've ever had instant coffee made in a small boat's hot cup than you'll understand a good piece of it.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?
Still serving with the U.S. Coast Guard as a Civilian, and currently as a GS12 at the Atlantic Area Command Center as a Search and Rescue and Maritime Law Enforcement Specialist.
Yes, I'm one of those "double dippers" now.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
I'm a member of multiple fraternal service related associations. I am currently serve as an elected National Officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association and as the elected Director of Coast Guard operations for the Armed Forces E9 Association. I enjoy continuing to serve with and work for the military membership of both.
HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
After 34 years in uniform and in the service of my country, it has defined my life and my approach living. I joined the Coast Guard as a young (and often dumb) 18 year old and then spent almost double that time in the service.
It is the highest honor in my life to have been afforded the privilege and honor of wearing the uniform of my country. I would do it all over again in heartbeat and still be doing it if I could. It was my career and what some call work, but it was always fun. If you aren't having fun then you aren't doing your job right.
And along the way I must have done something right, because as proud as I am of my service, I am even prouder of my son, BM2 Bruce Bradley, currently at Station Little Creek, VA. He has the potential to do far more than I ever dreamed of in this service.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?
Enjoy every day that you have in your career, because it goes by so quickly and will be over before you know it. My 34 years seem to have gone by in a flash. Don't be afraid of the challenge of any job and always ask for the jobs you want, no matter where they may be.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?
Togetherweserved.com is another outstanding site that allows me to find old shipmates, make new friends, and help keep track of my service.
And now that I have been given the chance to serve on the TWS staff, I can keep helping others here also, as the motto of the USCG Chief Petty Officer Association says, " In respect for those who have gone before us and as a guide for those who follow."
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