A Sit Down With Coast Guard Commodore Vincent Pica
In June of 1983, Vincent Pica sailed down the Atlantic coast bound for Bermuda. Unfortunately, for Vincent and his crew, their path would be interrupted by Tropical Storm Alberta. With waves of over 20 feet crashing on Vincent’s boat, in the heart of storm, chances of survival would appear grim. However, Vincent credits his survival with the same method that has defined the US Coast Guard since its inception, preparedness. Vincent and his crew sailed through that storm, not by luck, but by being ready for the impossible.
The US Coast Guard as we know it was formed by a merger of the US Life-Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter service in 1915. Today the 87,000 member US Coast Guard is responsible for an array of maritime services. From patrolling the US’ borders to performing rescue missions, the plate of responsibilities is quite full. On its own, the US Coast Guard is the world’s 12th largest Navy force, comprised of active-duty, reserve, civilian and auxiliary members.
When the towers fell on September 11th in lower Manhattan, several of Vincent’s friends were inside. Every US military conflict has seen a member of Vincent’s family serve, save Viet Nam, since his first family member came to the US via Ellis Island on April 20th, 1904. September 11th had a profound effect on Vincent. His desire to serve his country was stoked to a blaze inside and as Vincent said, “Get me in this thing. I’m not just writing a check to the Red Cross for this one.” Such was the genesis of Vincent’s career and the beginning of a love affair with the Coast Guard.
Vincent is a member of the Coast Guard’s Auxiliary forces, representing 24,000 of the Coast Guard’s 87,000 members. Vincent serves most often in support of Station Shinnecock, Hampton Bays, NY yet he is still able to work during the week as a financier in Manhattan.
In fact, Vincent has still found time for 30,500 mission hours over the last 2 decades. From search and rescue of a burning vessel to writing a seamanship column for a local newspaper, Vincent finds his passion for the Coast Guard has only grown with time.
Despite the introduction of GPS to the Coast Guard, which Vincent says is definitely the greatest technological advancement of the last half century, the missions are still quite simple from a technological standpoint. There is no way to “disrupt” the act of search and rescue at sea. One must take a boat out, often in treacherous stormy weather to work so that others may live. But, there is no greater honor in this world than the act of saving another mariner’s life.
The Coast Guard is divided up into 9 geographical divisions, yet training is so standardized that, during Katrina, crews were brought together from all over the country and were able to work seamlessly together. From saving fishing and cargo vessels in frozen Alaskan waters, to jumping on moving drug-smuggling submarines, the Coast Guard has by far the most varied responsibilities of any branch of government, gunboats to rescue swimmers.
Serving in the Coast Guard has become more than a point of personal pride for Vincent, now that his son is also serving with him, it has become a point of fatherly pride.
Written by Alexander Fleiss & Edited by The Rebellion Team
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