Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater is the largest in the country, covering everything from the Gulf of Mexico to the Bahamas and down to Turks and Caicos.
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Hidden off of Roosevelt Boulevard and the Fairchild Drive area of Pinellas County lies a diamond in the rough. Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater operates out of the northern part of the St. Pete Clearwater International Airport and is the largest and busiest Air Station in the Coast Guard.
It hosted USCG Admiral Karl Schultz for his State of the Coast Guard address giving an up-close look at the operation.
"We're similar to firefighters," stated Lt. Drew Sonetirot. "You know, if an alarm goes off, we've got to be airborne in 30 minutes. That way, we can take care of whoever’s offshore who needs our help."
The station covers the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean basin, and the Bahamas. The Air Station's C-130 aircraft cover all the way to the Turks and Caicos Islands. That's more than 800 miles one way.
These members of the Coast Guard say the job is extremely rewarding.
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"Every day we do something to help someone and hearing about that on a day-to-day basis is definitely rewarding," commented Lt. Commander George Menze.
The crew works 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
"Our primary missions are search and rescue and law enforcement," said Lt. Caitlyn Gever. "And that can incorporate both aspects searching for folks in their vessels, rescuing them, and drug and migrant interdiction."
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Air Station Clearwater can launch at least four aircraft within 30 minutes to respond to search and rescue and law enforcement throughout Florida and surrounding waters in the Caribbean.
"The draw for me in the Coast Guard was that ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a pilot, and on the side of that, I also wanted to be a doctor, you know, to help people," shared Lt. Sonetirot. "In the Coast Guard, I can do both. I can help people and also fly as well."
But being a pilot isn't the only job at Air Station Clearwater.
"The one thing that stood out to me when I was looking at what branch to join was, every day I'm doing my job," recalled Aviation Survival Technician Jethro Hauser. "I'm not training for a job that I'm might do once or twice, it's pretty much go, go, go, which is pretty much the best part about it."
Hauser has been a part of some really important lifesaving missions coming and going from Caribbean disaster areas following hurricanes.
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"Often we're helping them on their worst days," stated Lt. Gevers. "We get to be the ones to go help them."
That sentiment is shared by others there at the Air Station.
AST3 Hauser echoed her words, "We train for the people's worst days of their lives, and if I can be the difference between them getting home or not, it really sits well with me."
LINK: Learn more about Air Station Clearwater here.
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