Great Lakes Shipmate of the Week: SN Michael A. Decaprio, ANT Duluth

Decaprio placing the finishing touches on the new LED mounting at the Grand Marais Llighthouse, in Grand Marais, Minn. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Omar Zaldivar.

At Aids to Navigation Team Duluth, Minn., Seaman Michael A. Decaprio has become a member that his unit can proudly call a shipmate. Within the year’s time that he has been stationed there, he has demonstrated an overwhelming dedication to crew and mission.

His commitment and superior work ethic have earned Decaprio the position of leading seamen. As such, he works closely with his supervisors to ensure that daily tasks are disseminated, understood and completed by the crew.

Proper dissemination of information is vitally important to ensuring the safety of the mariners that sail Lake Superior. Recently, Decaprio did his part in ensuring that sailors continue to receive the best broadcasting of safety provision that ANT Duluth can provide by assisting in an updating of the Grand Marais Lighthouse, in Grand Marais, Minn., from a classical Fresnel lens to a modern and efficient LED lantern enabling the lighthouse to eliminate its dependence on shore power and go solar.

Decaprio striking at a split key to loosen the mooring from a buoy in the Minnesota Channel, Nov. 16, 2012. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Burnett.

In addition to modernizing the light, Decaprio fabricated and installed the fixture upon which a new VEGA VLB-44 LED lantern sits.

“Decaprio has gained invaluable knowledge, which he has used to ease everyone’s workload at the unit,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Raymond Edwards, a crewman at ANT Duluth.

Decaprio has routinely volunteered to work at every lighthouse, buoy, day beacon, and structural maintenance projects that ANT Duluth is responsible for.

“His broad knowledgebase makes him an indispensible member,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Garret S. Hafer, a mentor and friend of Dicaprio.

“Having him along on any mission greatly enhances the team’s ability to successfully accomplish tasks.”

Prior to the onset of winter each year, ANT Duluth is tasked with removing all foam buoys from the Saint Louis River and exchanging all 5X11 buoys with tougher more robust ice hull buoys. This is done to prolong the service life of the foam and 5X11 buoys as Lake Superior can quickly freeze over and produce a harsh and unforgiving environment for less hearty buoys.

Decaprio plays a large part in ensuring that these buoys get removed and replaced annually. Fully qualified as an ATON crewmember on the 49-foot Buoy Utility Stern Loading boat, he works hammer-side deck, a position that is extremely labor intensive but requires a keen eye for detail and a steady hand.

Shouldered with the enormous responsibilities of maintaining lighthouses and fog warning signals as well as ensuring that buoys are in marked locations, visible, and free of any obstructions, it is imperative that ANT Duluth operates efficiently and as a team. Even as a junior member at the unit Decaprio exemplifies the meaning of the word shipmate by greatly contributing to overall mission effectiveness and success as well as giving his best for himself, his shipmates and the 9th Coast Guard District.