If you’re on the Gulf Coast and hear the distant hum of a helicopter, look to the skies and it’s likely you will spot an approaching Dolphin helicopter belonging to Air Station New Orleans. During its more than 50-year history Air Station New Orleans has saved more than 5,600 lives and is the busiest of all helicopter search and rescue air stations in the Coast Guard.
The more than 120 men and women stationed there maintain ready crews able to launch within 30 minutes of a call, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. But standing the watch alongside the ready crews are dozens of critical support personnel. How important is their role in saving lives? Just ask Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin Jones.
As the lead petty officer for Air Station New Orleans’ facilities engineering department, Jones leads a staff of five petty officers and seven non-rates. His team keeps aircraft capable and ready to respond at a moment’s notice as they conduct preventative and corrective maintenance required for eight buildings and 26 acres of unit property. His team also oversees ground support, including fueling equipment and the unit’s fleet of government vehicles.
“People see our brave men and women on the news hoisting people from flood waters and they don’t realize that those crews would never be there if it weren’t for the efforts of Coast Guardsmen like MK1 Jones, who are turning wrenches one minute and coordinating offshore refuel operations the next,” said Cmdr. Richard Bates, operations officer at New Orleans.
Jones stays busy under normal operating conditions but during natural disasters, such as this year’s Hurricane Isaac, his team works in overdrive to keep utilities running. During the hurricane, Jones and his team didn’t have a moment to lose. Keeping the facilities running meant helicopters could take flight to save lives. And it is during these trying times where Jones’ leadership really shines.
“Petty Officer Jones keeps us going. He works along with us when we have to put in long hours and he’s always looking out for us,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Fergusson, Jones’ co-worker.
A true leader, Jones refuses to accept any recognition without sharing it with the men women he leads every day. He credits them with the successes that he has experienced as a leading petty officer. His ambitious and willing attitude is infectious as each member he works with becomes more driven to get the job done.
“Petty Officer Jones represents exactly what we hope to see from our senior petty officers. He is willing to go to the greatest lengths to accomplish our mission, and he does so by creating a team of inspired and invested men and women who are as motivated to see our crews succeed as he is,” said Lt. Scott Austin, Jones’ supervisor at the air station. “I have worked with very few people who care so much about the Coast Guardsmen under their care, or who are able to keep them motivated in nearly any circumstance.”
Jones keeps his team motivated and truly understands devotion to duty. He is adding to the five-decades-long history of excellence at the air station and knows what he does every day – from fueling evolutions to facility repairs – keeps the Coast Guard airborne to save lives.