From Corporal to Coastie: Petty Officer reflects on Corps experience

2 Apr 2004 | Cpl. Beth Zimmerman

Away from the hustle and bustle of New York City, the clouds are clumped loosely over Jones Beach, Long Island. The water lapping at the beach glistens a dark green on a chilly March morning. Suddenly, an electric motor breaks the natural silence as an orange, 22-foot-long boat bounces across the waves. In response, the wind tosses the waves closer to six feet, and the orange boat picks up speed and jumps the waves like a competitive surfer. It catches an air pocket and hovers above the water for a few suspenseful seconds...then slams back onto the face of the water. Right on cue, a salty, roaring wave engulfs the left side of the boat. Sound like a movie opening? Thrill seekers looking for fun? It's actually just part of a Tuesday morning at Coast Guard Station Jones Beach. And for Petty Officer 3rd Class David White, it's not too far from his days in the Marine Corps. White is a Machinery Technician Third Class in the U.S. Coast Guard stationed at Jones Beach. He's been there more than three years, ever since he made the transition from the Corps to the Coast Guard. White finished four years in the Marine Corps as a Corporal in June of 1999. One year later, the Bay City, Texas, native had had enough of life as a civilian."I decided to go back into the military," said White. "I missed the structure and discipline," he said. The broad-shouldered 26-year-old maintains a high and tight haircut for his blond hair almost five years out of the Corps. "The Coast Guard seemed like a good change," he added. "Plus, I just wanted to try search and rescue."Most of his time in the Corps has helped mold him into the petty officer he is today. "The Coast Guard has a different mission [from the Marine Corps], but the discipline I learned in the Corps has definitely helped me out a lot."The discipline especially plays a part during inclement weather. The Coast Guard has a mission to accomplish even when the sun's not shining. "We take the boats out in every weather," said White. "I've been out in 17 and 18-foot waves before."Despite the bad weather, White loves life on the boats. "My favorite part of this job is getting out on the water on patrol, and meeting the public," he said. "You get to help a lot of people out when they really need it." Even that Tuesday, White walked into a coffee shop and was approached by a man who thanked him. "I'll never forget that day," said the elderly gentleman of the time he was rescued by the Coast Guard nine years ago. "Thank you for what you do."The people are also what White misses the most from the Marine Corps. "I had some really, really good friends in the Marine Corps," he said. White believes the same relationships exist in the Coast Guard. "Although the job is different, the brotherhood is similar," he said. "My last platoon in the Marine Corps was very's the same here," he said. "Everybody knows each other well, and we all take care of each other.""We've got a great crew," White said. "It can get rough, but when you're out on a job and know what to do, you know you can rely on each other to get it done."
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