Coast Guardsman Fills Void on Bainbridge Island

Dotted along our nation’s coasts are Coast Guard smallboat stations and patrol boats that defend our ports, safeguard the environment and answer the call to save lives. Each of these units is made up of a small group of tight-knit crews, who answer the call to serve together.

Homeported in Sandy Hook, N.J., Coast Guard Cutter Bainbridge Island is one of these tight-knit units. The cutter operates off the Gulf of Maine to Southern New Jersey, and from search and rescue to marine environmental protection to national defense, this cutter and crew are ready and able to respond to any call. But to perform these missions there is one key thing a cutter needs – an engine.

Bainbridge Island was shorthanded and in need of an engineering petty officer. When the call for help was sent out, Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Wilmot answered. A machinery technician by trade, Wilmot was no stranger to rolling up his sleeves and getting dirty. And that is just what he did aboard Bainbridge Island as he became responsible for the maintenance and repair of all machinery aboard the ship.

Filling this role – normally reserved for someone more senior – Wilmot was immediately challenged through various casualties. Altogether he took corrective action on eight mission-degrading casualties during his five months aboard. From repairs on the main diesel engine to fixing the ship’s steering system, Wilmot quite literally kept the entire ship mission ready.

“He is a phenomenal coach and shipmate during all damage control drills. He corrected multiple poor habits being performed by our fire teams, and provided the entire crew with the confidence needed to handle casualties,” said Lt. Sean Murray, commanding officer of Bainbridge Island.

Along with revamping procedures in the engine room, Wilmot made a difference in the lives of each of the crewmembers as he spent all weeknights aboard the cutter, standing inport watch even though he was not required to do so. His selfless act allowed other crewmembers time with their families, while he missed out on time with his own.

His operational skills were not isolated to just the engine room either. He conducted various law enforcement boardings and search and rescue cases while aboard Bainbridge Island; in one particular case his knowledge and skills saved lives.

When the fishing vessel Shamrock was sinking off the coast of Montauk, N.Y., with four souls aboard, an arsenal of rescue crews was dispatched, including aircrews from Air Station Cape Cod and boatcrews from cutters Tiger Shark and Ridley. While Bainbridge Island was not an initial responder, they joined up with their fellow lifesavers to finish the final seven hours of towing the fishing vessel back to port.

During the final leg of the transit, Wilmot provided valuable insight into the dewatering equipment being used to control flooding aboard the fishing vessel. Because the vessel was taking on water, the pumps were positioned in a way that was continuously putting carbon monoxide into the pilothouse. Wilmot recognized this danger and took action to keep the carbon monoxide levels low, allowing the boarding team to safely escort the fishing vessel to port.

“Joe’s knowledge was critical during the fishing vessel Shamrock case. He helped me come up with a creative solution in regards to the carbon monoxide problem that kept the boarding team and vessel crewmembers safe during dewatering,” said Ensign Jimmy McCormack, operations department head aboard Bainbridge Island.

With Coast Guard men and women performing missions above decks and visible to the public eye, the engineers and electricians who keep ships moving are often forgotten. But thanks to his proficiency in his craft and his devotion to duty, the Bainbridge Island family will not soon forget Wilmot. Bravo Zulu to Petty Officer 1st Class Wilmot and his ability to step in to help out a crew when they needed it most.

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