What It Takes to Be Ready

Posted 09.09.2011

There are a lot of memories coming to the surface as the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches. Of course, some of the most vivid memories are of the first responders who showed so much courage and skill in the minutes, hours and days after the attacks. Even though they had never dealt with such a situation at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon, they were ready to respond and saved lives in the process.

Last month, I got to spend a weekend with a ship full of 80 people like that when I was onboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Venturous. In the past couple of weeks on this blog, I’ve shared What I Learned on a Coast Guard Cutter and 3 Things The Coast Guard Does to Prepare for Emergencies. Today, I want to focus in one member of the Venturous crew that I spent a lot of time with – Main Propulsion Assistant Jim O’Brien. Jim is from Boston and is a 28 year veteran of the Coast Guard. He knows every inch of his ship and spent a good bit of time showing me what goes on below decks.

When you hang out with Jim O’Brien, you see a guy who loves and takes a great deal of pride in what he does. As you watch the short video that comes with this post, you’ll see Jim searching every nook and cranny of the ship with his flashlight looking for water or other fluids that might be early indicators of trouble. You’ll see how easily he can explain every system and function on the ship. You’ll see how he teaches his crew to pay attention to the details in the way that he does. (By the way, you might want to wear some hearing protection for the first minute or so of the video. It’s pretty loud in the cutter’s engine room.)

It’s people with the experience, passion and dedication of Jim O’Brien who get our first responders ready to protect and help the rest of us. He’s a leader in every sense of the word. He knows his stuff.  He shares what he knows. He’s dedicated. He cares about his people. He teaches his people. He gives a damn in every respect. Thank goodness we have leaders like Jim.