Watchstander Keeps an Eye on America’s Ports


America’s ports – both coastal and inland – are communities bustling with energy and action. In any given day a boater and his family may be lost at sea; a cargo ship with millions of dollars worth of cargo needs safeguarding; or an ice-filled waterway needs be cleared.

To oversee each ports’ flurry of operations, the Coast Guard has command centers acting as hubs of information. If a helicopter needs to get airborne or a pollution response team needs to be sent out, it’s done from the command center. And at the heart of command centers are the men and women who continuously standing the watch.

One Coast Guardsman keeping an eye on America’s ports is Senior Chief Petty Officer Douglas Samp. Samp is a supervisor in the Sector San Francisco command center – the Coast Guard’s busiest command center by volume of search and rescues cases each year.

“Expert” is a title used to refer to someone who has the highest level of skill in a given arena. Well, Samp has mastered the craft of emergency response management and is an expert in the truest sense of the word. In fact, under Samp’s leadership, San Francisco units have responded to an astounding 1,883 search and rescue cases.

More than that, his leadership has produced results in the form of 344 lives saved, 1,783 lives assisted and more than $8.3 million in property saved.

“Senior Chief Samp’s innate ability to effectively investigate and fuse together information; ability to provide a clear and accurate picture of developing situations; and sound judgment during crisis has served as an immense influence on how we all execute our responsibilities,” said Lt. Shawn Whiteside, a command center watchstander.

With an attitude his colleagues call “enthusiastic” and “proficient,” Samp’s leadership fosters growth in junior members in the command center. He has trained and qualified more than 30 watchstanders responsible for providing operational awareness, information sharing and command and control of port operations.

More than just a key member of the command center, Samp’s vast depth of knowledge in command and control technology has led him to be invaluable throughout the San Francisco Bay and central California region. He has been the lead for a number of operations requiring extensive planning for safety and security, including the 2012 America’s Cup sailing races, San Francisco Fleet Week and 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge construction.

“Senior Chief Samp is an inspirational leader with exceptional drive and passion,” said Lt. Cmdr. Shawn Lansing, the command center chief. “His focus on individual watchstander proficiency and our overall command and control capability positions Sector San Francisco for success.”

When Samp is not standing duty, serving as the direct representative of the commanding officer, he is out in the community forging partnerships; he knows it takes an established team to respond to the region’s myriad of challenges.

Through his initiative, the San Francisco Bay Maritime Search and Rescue Council was established. This group, with dozens of response agencies, increases regional response asset awareness, mutual aid and interoperability. The council’s planning efforts were put into action during a mass rescue operation where 34 passengers were successfully evacuated when an engine caught fire aboard a tour boat.

“Senior Chief Samp has spent extensive time solidifying relationships with search and rescue agencies around the region,” said Lansing. “His investment in these critical relationships has greatly increased fluency between our responders and strengthened our ability to successfully serve the public.”

When you see a Coast Guard rescue boat responding to a sinking boat, or an airplane making a supply drop, its often easy to forget about the hundreds of people who make it happen behind the scenes. But while they may not be visible to the public’s eye, watchstanders like Samp continue to stand a taut watch – ensuring the safety and security of America’s ports.

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