On the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Kevin Ziegler told the Forks Chamber of Commerce how “virtually overnight, life for every one in America changed,” Ziegler said. “For us, it was a switch from search and rescue focus to being more security-minded.”
Ziegler, officer-in-charge at the Coast Guard’s motor lifeboat Station Quillayute River and a 22-year veteran of the Coast Guard, spoke to the chamber at its luncheon meeting last week.
Ziegler was stationed as a command security officer at the Coast Guard’s Yaquina Bay station in Newport, Ore.
His security post, what had been a pretty cushy post at the search and rescue station, instantly became the spotlight of the station’s efforts.
He had to set up patrols around the station.
Citizens called regularly to report groups of foreigners gathered in town, people taking pictures of bridges or ships or to report conversations they overheard.
“All as they had before. But suddenly it felt like something that should be reported,” Ziegler said. “Terror had definitely been instilled in our lives.”
Oversight of the Coast Guard was moved from the U.S. Department of Transportation to the newly-formed Department of Homeland Security.
Apart from that, however, little has changed, he said.
The agency’s main thrust is still being there when stormy seas imperil boaters off the country’s coasts.
“That’s the part of the job I really love — the search and rescue,” Ziegler said.
Ziegler went through the rigorous training the Coast Guard requires of its surfmen, crew trained to handle the roughest of seas for rescue missions.
He is Surfman No. 270 in the agency’s official logs, one of five at the La Push station and fewer than 100 active surfmen enrolled in the Coast Guard nationally.
He explained the rigorous training exercises the Coast Guard has designed specifically, he said, to push people away from the position.
“More than once, I would have given up my certificate to be on dry land,” he said.
Candidates are heckled through training and put in circumstances designed to “refund their lunch,” he said, all designed to weed out the faint-hearted.
“We expect nothing but perfection.”