08-05-2014 03:30 AM
In celebration of the U.S. Coast Guard birthday Monday, Craig Hopkins, a former enlisted Coastie turned senior vice president of Global Service Delivery and chief procurement officer here at USAA, tells about some of his experiences in the Coast Guard.
You enlisted in 1984. How is today’s Coast Guard different from 30 years ago?
Clearly there have been big changes in equipment and technology for maritime operations with things like GPS, satellites and advanced radar. But the personal technology changes are also significant. When I was out at sea for six to eight weeks at a time, your only connection to home was postal mail that was airlifted to the ship or a collect call from a pay phone when you finally hit a port.
What Coast Guard skills have translated well into the corporate world?
Patience: The sea doesn’t adapt; you do. Sometimes you need to let a tough situation develop before you can finally find a way through it.
Teamwork: You learn to trust your team, train them for the fight and prepare them to succeed without you.
Purpose: You can't train a person to react to danger: It comes from the heart and a dedication to those you serve.
Agility: Prepare for storms when the sun is shining, and sleep when you can. But remember, no matter how much you train or prepare, you will never get comfortable until you get wet.
Courage: Sometimes the only way out of a tough spot is to walk right through it.
Selflessness: You have to be willing to understand your role and put yourself at the end of the line; that is service.
What would surprise people about the life of a Coastie?
Coasties move a lot and spend just as much time away from their families as those in the other armed services. But because the Coast Guard is so small, you always seem to bump into someone you know wherever you get deployed or stationed. In that way, the Coast Guard really feels more like a family than the other services.
What are your favorite nautical knots? Can you still tie them?
Bowlineand round turn and two half hitchesare my favorites. I still use them all the time and just taught my youngest son how to tie them the other day. Although now, I really have to think about what I’m doing. It doesn’t come naturally anymore.
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