Videos: Today's Military
    Coast Guard

    Lives in Her Hands(02:48)

    Operations Specialist 3rd Class Josefina Martinez handles the radio, including distress calls. Her role is instrumental to the success of Coast Guard rescue missions.

    The five main missions of the Coast Guard include maritime security, maritime mobility, maritime safety, protection of natural resources and national defense. When it comes to maritime safety, the Coast Guard enforces regulations and launches rescues of those in distress.

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Operations Specialist 3rd Class Josefina Martinez: Good morning. My name is Josefina Martinez. I'm in the Coast Guard, operations specialist 3rd class at Sector Houston-Galveston. Well, I'm a communications specialist, so I talk to mariners. Basically anything that comes over the radio, I answer; I'm like the 9-1-1 dispatcher. We also get distress calls, nondistress calls, ATON messages (that's "aids to navigation"). We send out safety broadcasts. When I first started here at Sector, any kind of call I would get when I was breaking in — and one sender, like somebody's calling, I was scared. And you know, they could just be calling to do a radio check. I would panic. But as you, I guess, progress, you get more comfortable. Like, right now people call me, and I'm just like, "What up?" You know, you feel really comfortable.

I've had several cases — I get really emotional. I start crying sometimes on watch, like just different things happen. I had a case, It was, I want to say March 5th, a sailing vessel. They were racing from Galveston to Mexico, and their transponder went out. Basically the person that was keeping track of their transponder called us, and they're like, "We haven't got our ops on position for like an hour." And you know, so we started searching for them, ended up that their keel broke, and all of them went into the water immediately. The captain, I guess you could say the one that was in charge of the boat, went under the cabin — really, I'm not sure exactly how the sailboats are — but he went under the cabin, got all the life jackets, pulled everybody out, like, woke them up — basically threw them in the water. I guess it made me feel good. I called, like, I think, I worked for 17 hours that watch, and I got off watch. I didn't even want to go home because I kept calling like, "Are they ok? Have you guys found them? Are they alive?"

It makes me feel important. People's lives are in my hands. If I do something wrong or if I goof off, act a fool, you know, somebody can die. If you put yourself in everybody else's shoes that are out on the water, you're like, "If this was me, if this was my family, if this was somebody that I loved, what would I do?"