Great Lakes Shipmate of the Week: SN Nathan Milewski, Coast Guard ANT Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

Seaman Nathan “Milo” Milewski, a native of Dallas, reported to Coast Guard Aids-to-Navigation Team Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. in the fall of 2012. Like many before him, he joined the Coast Guard with the goals of gaining law enforcement experience and having the opportunity to save lives. Upon completion of recruit basic training, Milewski never imagined he would be assigned to a job so dirty that it would gain national public recognition on the television show Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. The aforementioned job is none other than the Coast Guard’s ATON mission.

Milewski poses for a photo after shoveling buoys out of a mountain of snow to begin preparing them for operation Spring Restore.

Milewski poses for a photo after shoveling buoys out of a mountain of snow to begin preparing them for operation Spring Restore.

Although he may have initially questioned what it is he had gotten himself into, Milewski displayed the utmost in pride and professionalism, quickly learning navigation policies and working toward becoming a true ATON professional. Upon reporting aboard ANT Sault Ste. Marie, Milewski was immediately thrust into the action as the unit was actively executing Operation Fall Retrieve. He assisted in pulling 102 floating aids to navigation before winter set in, damaging or destroying them by the advancing ice. Learning ATON during a seasonal buoy roundup can be compared to learning to run before learning to walk. Throughout this experience, Milewski kept a positive attitude, learned some valuable lessons about devotion to duty, and began to develop a deep appreciation for the ATON mission.

Milewski and the crew of Sector Sault Sainte Marie begin training for the upcoming ATON season. Here, they are practicing setting and retrieving buoys from the unit's 26'-Trailerable Aids to Navigation boat while trailered in the parking lot.

Milewski and the crew of Sector Sault Ste. Marie begin training for the upcoming ATON season. Here, they are practicing setting and retrieving buoys from the unit’s 26-foot trailerable aids-to-navigation boat while trailered in the parking lot.

As a non-rated member at an aids-to-navigation team, Milewski serves in a number of diverse capacities with duties including boat crewmember, ATON boat crewmember, boom/crane operator, buoy deck supervisor, chainsaw/brush cutter, tower climber, ATON technician, and utility vehicle operator. ANT Sault Ste. Marie is responsible for 118 fixed federal aids and 102 floating federal aids. Further complicating the unit’s ATON mission is their responsibility to monitor more than 1,000 acres of property that requires frequent brush cutting to ensure aids remain visible from the water.  Much of this work is accomplished by the unit’s non-rates. The work can be long and grueling, but Milewski always embraces the challenge with his typical good attitude.

Off duty, Milewski volunteers his time working with the local Boy Scout troop; during this past winter, he helped coordinate and supervise a cardboard sled run at the local sledding hill. Milewski also actively assists in strengthening relationships between the Coast Guard, the local community and Great Lakes historical associations by volunteering to participate in the Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial Service at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. He and the other crew members rang the Edmund Fitzgerald’s bell as the names of the lost crewmembers were read while family, friends, and former shipmates of the fallen sailors paid their respects. His pride and professionalism helped make the memorial a special event for those who gather annually to remember their loved ones.

Milewski is currently on the waiting list to attend Boatswain’s Mate “A” school and is looking forward to entering his chosen rating and being afforded further opportunity to enforce laws and save lives. In the meantime, he is learning the value of hard work, the importance of attention to detail, and what it means to be a U.S. Coast Guardsman.

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