Videos: Today's Military
    Coast Guard

    Serving on the USCG Healy(03:43)

    Seaman Deirdre Gray describes the United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Healy's special scientific and ice-breaking mission. Since the Healy is built to break through ice, its mission is to help scientists perform research in the Arctic.

    Gray has been deployed for months at a time while the cutter is underway. Yet there are many on-board activities available for service members. For example, Gray has access to a fitness room and a game room, and she also started a knitting and crocheting club.

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Seaman Deirdre Gray: My name is Deirdre Gray. I am a Seaman on the Coast Guard cutter Healy. The Healy is a platform for science. That was what Healy was created for, so our main objective and mission is to assist the National Science Foundation in their science research of the Bering and the Arctic.

A Seaman's role is going to vary depending on where they actually are located. For instance, Seamen on cutters do a lot more of maintenance on the ship itself: line repair, maintenance on search-and-rescue gear, stuff related with small boats, deck work, painting, things like that.

Being on Healy, we have a chance to do a bit more than a Seaman on a 378 might. We have cranes, which we're able to become operators of, which is one of my positions. We also have the opportunity to become a JOD, which is a junior officer of the deck, meaning that I get to do some chart work, some plotting, things like that. Basically, run interference on the bridge to make sure that the OOD, the officer of the deck, is able to maintain their situational awareness and drive the ship safely.

Sometimes your day can be tiring. You can start work at 8:00, and you might not end until 10:00, 2200, that evening. That's just sometimes how a day goes, and you grow used to that. You adapt, and you build your stamina to be able to complete work like that.

When you're underway, how you decide to spend your free time is up to you, and it's only limited by the amount of space that you have. The Healy has two gyms, so working out is probably the number-one way that people spend their off-hours.

Other things that we do is we play video games, whether it be on little handheld consoles, or if you want to bring like your PlayStation or your Xbox underway with you. People also write emails to their family and loved ones. We also have movies that play when we're underway. There's three channels that are dedicated to movies every night, so if you feel like sitting down and watching a movie in the lounge with your friends or something, you can do that.

Being on the Healy, we only have 75 crewmembers, and for the most part, everyone gets along fairly well. You get to know everybody just passing by, have little short conversations.

I had mentioned to a few people just to see what the reaction was that I was going to start knitting when I was underway. Actually, I didn't get the response that I was really thinking I was going to get. Instead, a lot of people were like, "Oh, well, I know how to crochet, too." So I brought my stuff over, and soon after that we just had impromptu knitting and crochet sessions a few times a week, whenever we were all free together. Sometimes on Saturday nights, we sit down and watch movies in their room and just talk away, knitting and crocheting.

Our operational schedule is generally determined by the needs and requirements of the National Science Foundation, so they will generally have us on three-month or four-month deployments, with a mid-patrol break. In the past few years, Healy has mainly stayed in the Bering and in the Arctic Ocean. That has provided a lot of unique experiences because not only are we breaking ice continuously, we've been able to go out in the ice for ice liberty, which means the crew can go out on the ice and enjoy some time off, some time to play. We've had polar bears come up right next to the ship when we're stopped sometimes. So these are things that, outside of the Military, I don't think I would have ever had the experience to see or do.