MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Coast Guard Sector Mobile serves and protects the Gulf Coast from the Pearl River in Mississippi to the big bend in the Florida panhandle. Captain Don Rose is its commanding officer. He wears several hats in his leadership position from search and rescue to pollution response.
He recently shared about the wide ranging responsibilities of his job. Captain Rose also shared how as a young teen he wanted no part of the service. He said a visit to the Coast Guard Academy in New Haven, Connecticut, changed his life forever.
"I'm not in an office somewhere; I'm out in the field. I get to see Coast Guard men and women on the boats, on the ships, on watch. I'm incredibly impressed, and to get to work with them and lead them, boy what a source of pride," Capt. Rose said.
He leads 600 Coast Guard men and women who serve and protect the Gulf Coast from Mississippi to the great bend of the Florida panhandle. Capt. Rose was first impressed by the Coast Guard years ago as a young boy in Missouri.
"I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, big river city. I lived close to the Mississippi River. The Coast Guard had a fairly large presence in St. Louis," Rose recalled.
His older brother's appointment to the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut gave Rose an even closer look.
"I saw what he was going through and I said, ‘I want no part of that,' because it was a pretty rough time. My junior year I went up to New Haven and took a look at the Coast Guard Academy. I thought this could be a worthwhile service. And, the adventures that were posed like the tall ship Eagle were pretty attractive," Rose said.
"My first trip to Washington, D.C. was as a freshman at the Coast Guard Academy to march in Ronald Reagan's first presidential inauguration. I joined the chapel choir, and we got a chance to sing in Carnegie Hall. Not that I'm a great singer but it was a great experience. The cadet cruises I took, twice they took us to Europe. I rowed on the crew team which is a year around intense sport. It was a very demanding time, but I learned a lot of life lessons," Rose reflected.
In the early 80s all academy cadets went to sea after graduation, which is a two-year assignment on board a ship.
"I chose the Papaw, a buoy tender in Charleston, South Carolina. I enjoyed the mission of having work to do every day. I enjoyed coastal piloting, navigation in the harbors and ports, law enforcement and search and rescue and pollution response. And you got a chance to drive, which was a lot of fun. We seized a vessel smuggling marijuana into the U.S. A lot of experience, a lot of responsibility early on," Rose shared.
Later assignments took rose to another U.S. coast and before the Coast Guard's top brass.
"I was a public affairs officer in Portsmouth, Virginia. I was also the admiral's aide and had two different admirals and four different chiefs of staff while in Virginia. You get a sense from that perspective of the importance of what we do. I received orders to the West Coast, second in command on a buoy tender in San Francisco, the Black Hawk. We sailed from Portland, Oregon, down to San Diego, California, and had a chance to grasp the beauty of the U.S. We also protected the wildlife out there," Capt. Rose said.
The Coast Guard sent Rose to law school.
"Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. I had some great professors, like Ken Feinberg of the oil spill fame, and he was an outstanding law professor," Rose said.
"The BP oil spill is a great reminder to us of the risks of the industry that we have in the Gulf of Mexico. It is an important part of modern society the flow of oil. We move so much of it around that the hazard is constantly there," Rose said.
Rose took command of Sector Mobile just weeks after the BP spill began in April 2010. Now, three years after the crisis, he believes lessons were learned.
"BP and the other industries involved stepped up to the plate in large measure. Some may disagree that they didn't do enough and that's certainly arguable, but the respect that we developed for the industries diligence to resolving that problem has been important. There are 10,000 workers in the Gulf of Mexico running rigs to provide that lifeblood of oil to this nation. Our eyes are wider open, and a lot of lessons have been applied now to how we look at the offshore industry," states Captain Rose.
Pollution response is just one of the Coast Guard's Gulf Coast mission.
"Law enforcement, search and rescue missions, hazardous materials response mission to our regulation of the marine industry and the waterways, inspecting ships, licensing mariners, investigating accidents, controlling the movement of traffic for safety and security purposes in and out of the port. It's incredibly wide ranged. I really am thankful for the partners we have at the state and local and industry levels that help us do the job, because if the federal government had to do it all by ourselves it just couldn't happen. We do a lot of preparation before every
hurricane season. June 1, we all go to a higher status, we have to be focused because storms don't give you a lot of notice," Rose said.
The daily mission is full of challenges, but Captain Rose said its most difficult calling off a search and rescue operation.
"To communicate it to that person's family is probably the most difficult part of the job. I think because you don't have closure for that person, and the sea is a very mysterious intimidating difficult force that most folks really can't come to grips with in the context of a conversation after their loved ones gone missing," Rose reflected.
After 29 years of service, Capt. Rose is facing retirement with no regrets.
"The experiences were extraordinary. I don't regret the decision. It did take a St. Louis boy and let him see the world," Rose said.
Capt. Rose said he's enjoyed some incredible relationships with many of his classmates he initially met at the Coast Guard Academy. He said they also helped shape his 30-year career. Although retirement is just a few weeks away and his 3-year tour at Sector Mobile is ending, Captain Rose and his family have no plans to leave the area anytime soon.
Coast Guard Sector Mobile's Change of Command ceremony is scheduled for July 24 at the Alabama Cruise Terminal.
The trial for Giuseppe Pino LoPorto continues today in Baldwin County. LoPorto, now 80-years-old, faces several sex abuse charges against a child dating back to the early 90s.
FOX10 News has learned William "Eddie" Patrick, captain of Mobile's First police precinct, has been demoted following an internal investigation.
If you were in the Foley area Thursday, you may have seen a helicopter, police and K-9 units. That’s because a store in Foley was robbed this morning at gunpoint. Eventually, the search was called off. The suspect is still on the loose.
Pastor of Lifeway Community Church Mike McPherson says thieves stole presents that would have been given to needy children.
Skies are mostly clear and the breezy north wind is very noticeable this evening. Daytime highs were only in the mid 50’s today. We are expecting a light freeze tonight along and north of I-10. Lows will be near 32 degrees in Mobile. Upper 20’s are possible well inland.
Jennifer Fram pleaded guilty to reckless murder in Mobile Thursday, December 12. Fram is charged in a fatal traffic accident that killed Nicholas Markow in April 2012.