I’ve been in the Coast Guard almost two years and this is my first billet after going to Officer Candidate School. I
joined the Coast Guard right off the street, but I did it kind
of backward. I went to college first and worked for the federal government for a long time. I’ve always had this need
that I want to serve others, and since my dream was to
work for the federal government I felt working for the
Coast Guard would be my best option long term. Where I
landed in the service also seemed to be the best fit for me.
The strike team is assigned to cleaning up hazardous waste and any kind of chemical, biological,
nuclear [materials] or weapons of mass destruction. I
received a master’s degree in forensic science, with an
emphasis in that kind of stuff, so it’s something I am
Most people don’t even know what we do here, and
here I am with the Coast Guard finding that perfect little
niche. My main job with the strike team is the training
officer, but I am also the response officer.
One of my most memorable missions was working on the response
for the Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara, in May. The spill leaked over
100,000 gallons. I was in the incident command post and responded
as the situation leader. That was my
first real big incident.
Most recently, I worked on the
Valley Fire response in Lake County,
Calif. The fire started on Sept. 12 and
impacted the community of Middle-
town in Northern California. The fire
covered 76,000 acres. Most people
don’t even know the Coast Guard
responds to these types of incidents.
I was just really happy to be able
to go. I knew it was going to be a
very interesting case. Once I got
there, I was so glad I was picked to respond because it
was complete and utter destruction. Over 1,000 homes
and structures were completely leveled. Some places just
had a slab of concrete and maybe a fireplace left.
These families were out there, they were given metal
sifters by the state to sift through their stuff. Peoples’ sto-
ries of trying to get their stuff out of homes, or finding
their pets were unreal. I have never seen anything like
that before. Some people I worked with said it was simi-
lar to working on Hurricane Katrina recovery.
Overall, I think this is the best job in the Coast Guard.
The feeling I have after work, knowing you’re there help-
ing these people, is indescribable. We can be doing some-
thing small or working on a major mission, like the Valley
Fire response, and the feeling remains the same. It’s just a
matter of being there for the people who want somebody
there to tell their story to. These people have lost every-
thing and just being there to help them in some way
improve their life a little bit more is why I do this job. ;
ENS Katy Caraway speaks with a local resident during the Refugio Oil Response
Open House in Goleta, Calif., May 30.
SEAPOWER / DECEMBER 2015 64 WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG
“… Knowing you’re there helping these people, is indescribable. We can be doing
something small or working on a major mission … and the feeling remains the
same. It’s just a matter of being there for the people who want somebody
there to tell their story to.”
ENS Katy Caraway
Pacific Strike Team