Coast Guard Station Indian River recognized for readiness
Last week, the United States Coast Guardsmen of Station Indian River Inlet were presented the Sumner I. Kimball Readiness Award, recognizing the unit achieving and maintaining the highest standards of boat and crew readiness.
The Readiness Award is earned by Coast Guard units that demonstrate an extraordinary state of readiness in administration, operations, maintenance and training during a rigorous inspection. Failure in any one of these aspects prevents a unit from receiving the award.
The award is named after Sumner Kimball, who was, from 1871 to 1878, the general superintendent of the Revenue Marine Bureau, which evolved into the U.S. Life Saving Service, itself a predecessor to the modern day United States Coast Guard (USCG). He is credited for putting the service on the road to professionalism by defining and heavily enforcing the fundamentals of training and equipment.
“It was his strategic vision for the Life Saving Service, and moving into the Coast Guard was to create standardization,” said Station Indian River Executive Petty Officer Nicholas Muskalla. “When I say standardization, I mean, when you walk out of your office and go to another franchise, it’s exactly the same, so you can acclimate to that place very quickly. It was meant to reduce cost, increase efficiency and make an overall more effective workforce.”
Muskalla said the station is assessed by the Readiness and Standardization Assessment Team every other year. The station received the Kimball Award as a result of an assessment in September 2013.
“They come and do a series of drills and testing,” he explained. “Every crewman and boat driver at the station has a full comprehensive knowledge of our job, vessels and our procedures of operating. Then we do a very thorough evaluation of our under-way abilities on our vessels to make sure we are able to do the job up to the standards that the Coast Guard has put forth and that the public expects.
“They also do a thorough inspection of our vessels. They come and check every little piece of our boat — every weld, every screw, every piece of electronic equipment, every piece of safety gear. Really, what it is — they’re making sure we’re ready to meet the demands of life-savers.”
The crew was presented with the award at the station on Monday, April 14, by Capt. Kathleen Moore, the commander of Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay in Philadelphia, accompanied by U.S. Sen. Chris Coons. The station also received a letter of recognition from their district admiral.
“There’s a lot of pride that comes with receiving Kimball Award. What the Kimball Award represents is the crew’s hard work, hours and dedication they put into their training. But, more accurately, it gives the crew of Indian River credit for the work they do year-round. The standardization inspection team, they take a snapshot of our performance over a five-day period. But what that really captures is our performance over the entire period from the last time we got inspected.
“We get to see that we met the highest level of readiness achievable in the Coast Guard. It instilled a lot of pride in the unit to show all the efforts that we put forth actually pay off and are recognized.”
Muskalla said that less than 10 percent of Coast Guard units receive the award, and this is the first Kimball Award Station Indian River has received.
“It’s unmatched how good this makes you feel when you get this award. The crew really enjoyed it. It raises our morale quite a bit. It sets a benchmark that we always want to go for.”
Muskalla, who has been in the USCG for almost a decade, served at one station prior to Indian River, as well as being stationed on a Coast Guard cutter.
“I’ve never been a part of a crew that received the Kimball Readiness Award,” he said. “This was my first tour where we ever did, and it’s a great feeling.”
The USCG’s mission is to “protect the public, the environment and U.S. economic interests — in the nation’s ports and waterways, along the coast, on international waters, or in any maritime region as required to support national security.”
“A large part of our law-enforcement operation is educating the boater,” explained Muskalla. “We like to go out and talk to people and tell them what we do and why we’re doing it. Community involvement is what empowers us. It’s where we can gain the confidence of the community, in the boating community, in what we do. So they know if they ever call us, we’ll be able to assist them.”
Muskalla said the station is gearing up for the summer season, during which they get the most of their search and rescue requests.
“This summer season is coming very fast… Now the water is starting to warm up. We’re going to start seeing a major increase in boating. We’ll see no boats and no vessels here, and within a month from now, there’ll be hundreds of them across the back-bay area and offshore,” he said. “The majority of our requests for help come between May and October. So we are gearing up for it.”
He added that the USCG works closely with its auxiliary, which is also out in the community, offering free vessel inspections and boating classes to the public.
“They love this time of year. They get with people and remind them of the things they need when they’re under way.”
Currently, Station Indian River has 32 active-duty members and nine reserve members. After the recent recognition, the station is authorized to permanently display the Kimball Award at the unit, and to fly the Kimball Readiness Pennant until their next Readiness and Standardization Assessment Team visit.
“The crew here at Indian River is top-notch — we do great work here,” added Muskalla. “We assist mariners. We do law enforcement. We work with other agencies. A lot of good things go into it.”