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New surfman joins ranks of Coast Guard elite

Posted: Wednesday, Feb 6th, 2013

Backed by an elite cadre of fellow surfmen, Matthew Strucic, right, was pinned Friday with the silver badge of the U.S. Coast Guard’s top rating. Welcoming Strucic to the ranks of surfmen were, left to right, BM1 Adam Johnson, CWO Robert Ornelas, Chief Carlos Hassler, BM1 Steve Lopez and BM2 Matthew Phillips. (Photos by Rick Beasley)

During a pinning formation at Motor Lifeboat Station Yaquina Bay on Friday, the elite backbone of the U.S. Coast Guard opened its guarded ranks to its newest member as the oldest surfman looked on.

In a sun-drenched ceremony that will likely be recalled one day as the calm before the storm, Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Matthew Strucic, a 30-year-old native of Long Island, N.Y., became a surfman. His commanding officer, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Ornelas, described the small cadre of motor lifeboat operators who wear the silver badge of crossed paddles over a life ring.

“The designation is the highest qualification an enlisted person can earn in the small boat community and goes to the Coast Guardsmen who have learned how to handle a small boat in the most extreme weather conditions,” said Ornelas, who also holds the rating. “Surfmen are a rarity in the Coast Guard. There are about 180 among the more than 42,000 active duty Coast Guardsmen, including the six at Station Yaquina Bay, and they are a rare commodity for the people who live and vacation in the area.”

There are 20 surf stations scattered within the Coast Guard’s nearly 200 small boat stations. Selected for the history of severe weather, seven are located on the Oregon coast, where winter seas can grow to the size of three-story buildings — precisely the conditions that attracted Matthew Strucic to the job. Fresh out of boot camp five years ago, he knew immediately that he wanted to be a surfman.

For the complete article see the 02-06-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 02-06-2013 paper.

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