News Center

Former Coastie shares his sea stories

by Community Manager

‎08-05-2014 03:30 AM

Coast Guard


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?


Craig HopkinsClearly 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.



Coast Guard carousel

Community Managers

Briana Hartzell

Briana Hartzell

Briana knows all about moving. This Navy wife has helped her husband relocate to four different naval air stations in the last three years. A former USAA employee, Briana is co-founder of The Triple Dish, a blog focused on food, fitness and military life.

View Briana's Profile
Wendy Poling

Wendy Poling

Wendy is a social media strategist and founder of, featuring a popular military spouse blog and the hit podcast Navy Wife Radio and now Military Life Radio. She is the wife of a submariner who has also served in Afghanistan.

View Wendy's Profile
Charles Pratt

Charles "Chazz" Pratt

Charles "Chazz" Pratt III is a former U.S. Army Captain who made the Military-to-Civilian career transition in 1994. In his book, The Fort Living Room Transition Course, he shares valuable tips & tricks to help you succeed. Since his transition from the military, he's worked for several Fortune 500 companies, including Pfizer, Genentech, and St. Jude Medical, among others.

View Chazz's Profile
Scott Halliwell

Scott Halliwell

Scott Halliwell is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner.

View Scott Halliwell's Profile
Joseph Montanaro

Joseph "J.J." Montanaro

Joseph "J.J." Montanaro is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner.

View Joseph "J.J." Montanaro's Profile