Great Lakes Shipmate of the Week: Week: Petty Officer 2rd Class Alexander J. Caldwell, Station Frankfort, Mich.

Nestled on the Northwest lower-peninsula of Michigan, the City of Frankfort is a true sportsman’s paradise and shares a rich tradition in Great Lakes maritime history. Covering over 60 miles of shoreline, including the Manitou Islands, Coast Guard Station Frankfort is responsible for an area once covered by five U.S. Lifesaving Service Stations dating back to the early 1900s. The commercial shipping lane of the Manitou Passage was so treacherous to mariners, it is often referred as the “Grave Yard” of Lake Michigan as many shipwrecks litter these crystal clear waters.

In the 1960s, the Frankfort area was unofficially named the “Birthplace of the Coho Salmon.” To control the invasive species of Alewife fish, Coho salmon were successfully stocked on the Platte River only 10 miles north of the Frankfort Harbor. This success ultimately created the multi-million dollar recreational and commercial sport fishing industry on Lake Michigan for trout and salmon. With the exception of a few transient boaters and commercial vessels in the area, most recreational boats are outfitted to sport troll for Coho and Chinook salmon.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Caldwell proudly displaying his Service Dress Blues for Sexual Assault Prevention Month. U.S. Coast Guard Photo.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Caldwell proudly displaying his Service Dress Blues for Sexual Assault Prevention Month. U.S. Coast Guard Photo.

Boatswain’s mate Petty Officer 2rd Class Alex Caldwell reported to Station Frankfort in June 2011 and quickly adapted to the challenging conditions of Northern Michigan.   Originally from Rockwood, Michigan, he joined the Coast Guard in 2005 and was previously stationed on the Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock in Port Huron, Michigan, and Maritime Safety and Security Team in Miami, Florida. Through his diverse boatswain’s mate career in aids to navigation and small boat operations, he earned numerous qualifications including: buoy deck rigger & supervisor; quartermaster of the watch; tower climber; RBS tactical boat crewmember; RBS coxswain; officer of the day; boarding officer; and ice rescue team leader. Using his storehouse of knowledge from previous units, he quickly certified in all positions and assumed the positions of operations officer and assistant training petty officer in the summer of 2012 at the unit.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Caldwell braving the cold northern Michigan without a jacket for this article. U.S. Coast Guard Photo.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Caldwell braving the cold northern Michigan without a jacket for this article.
U.S. Coast Guard Photo.

Caldwell takes great pride and dedication to his collateral duties. The small billet structure of Station Frankfort, with only 16 members, requires mid-level supervisors to perform multiple collateral duties. Working under the training petty officer, as well as the executive petty officer, Caldwell has nearly reduced all the training administrative workload for the XPO. Truly dedicated to the excellence of Station Frankfort, he played an instrumental role in the station being awarded the Sumner I. Kimball Readiness Award in September 2013.“Petty Officer Caldwell performs the duties of the training petty officer like no other and exemplifies the image of a great boatswain mate.” Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy Morris, executive petty officer at Station Frankfort.

He has helped train every person at the unit for both hard and soft water environments.   As ice team leader, he has assisted in the Ice Rescue certifications of 14 members and logged over 200 hours of ice rescue training. Truly a servant leader and always willing to go the extra mile, he has spent numerous off duty hours assisting in qualifications at the unit.

“BM2 Caldwell’s loyalty to the Coast Guard is exceptional with a true passion for training members, sharing his knowledge, and ensuring proficiency,” said Petty Officer 3rd Classs Seth Girard, a machinery technician at Station Frankfort.

A significant amount of Station Frankfort’s northern area of responsibility is shared by the U.S. National Park Service’s Sleeping Bear Dunes. In 2011, ABC’s Good Morning America TV show named the dunes the “Most Beautiful place in America.” As a byproduct of this classification, tourist levels and paddle sport maritime activities soared with 1.4 million visitors annually. Recognizing an influx of unprepared paddlers onto the frigid Lake Michigan waters, Caldwell created an annual safety outreach named, “Operation Sleeping Bear” targeting kayak and canoe liveries, retail businesses and common access sites. Caldwell’s vision of this safety outreach promoted the use of safety equipment and clothing, marine signaling devices, and emergency planning. During the first year of the operation, Caldwell visited over 20 local businesses and provided training material geared toward the education of tourists prior to them taking to the water.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Caldwell and Petty Officer 3rd Class Nickolas Frascone visiting a retail business during Operation Sleeping Bear. U.S. Coast Guard Photo.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Caldwell and Petty Officer 3rd Class Nickolas Frascone visiting a retail business during Operation Sleeping Bear. U.S. Coast Guard Photo.

“The main goal of this outreach was to educate the paddlers on the hidden dangers of Lake Michigan and especially being well prepared prior to using a small craft to make the 8 mile trip to the Manitou Islands,” said Caldwell. Caldwell shares the passion of promoting partnerships of the Coast Guard in a small town environment. Through his frequent outreaches from educating school children to seasoned boaters, training with local fire departments, and volunteering within the community he has greatly increased the positive image of Station Frankfort. Caldwell conducted a well received boating safety presentation for 20 transient vessels from the Sturgeon Bay Trawlers Association visiting Frankfort. He geared this presentation toward well-experienced boaters and assisted as a safety observer while the association conducted flare training. As a boarding officer with over 200 completed boardings, he has prioritized training mariners on carriage requirements and greatly assisted Frankfort’s charter fishing uninspected passenger vessel fleet.“It’s a pleasure to have Alex stationed at my unit,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Robert Nendza, officer in charge at Station Frankfort. “He is a great leader and excellent promoter of the Coast Guard. The crew of Station Frankfort truly appreciates his hard work and the community greatly benefits from his willingness to give back.”

Caldwell enjoys his off duty time being outdoors hunting & fishing and spending time walking with his six year old dependent, Brandy, a Beagle dog.

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