Great Lakes Shipmate of the Week: Seaman Meleah Bainbridge, Aids to Navigation Team Buffalo, N.Y.

Mt Vernon, Ohio native, Seaman Maleah Bainbridge, reported aboard Aids to Navigation Team Buffalo from recruit basic training, June 2010. She worked hard to quickly become qualified as an aids to navigation crewmember aboard the station’s two boats. She then pursued more advanced qualifications and became buoy deck supervisor as well as boom and crane operator.

Bainbridge has proven to be a valuable member of the ANT Buffalo team. She is capable of working on any of the 250 plus buoys, lights and beacons in the station’s area of responsibility, which spans from Vermillion, Ohio to Massena, New York.

As a qualified ATON technician and tower climber, she is prepared for any tasking, ranging from scheduled servicing to acute discrepancies in need of urgent repair. Her flexibility and proficiency have made her an irreplaceable asset to both her supervisors and peers.

Seaman Meleah Bainbridge operates the buoy retrieval system aboard one of ANT Buffalo's ATON boats. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class James Poole

Seaman Meleah Bainbridge operates the buoy retrieval system aboard one of ANT Buffalo’s ATON boats. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class James Poole

“Bainbridge has been a huge help to me and is always willing to lend a hand to help,” said Seaman Taylor Foran. “I couldn’t ask for a better co-worker at my first Coast Guard unit.”She further distinguished herself by completely upgrading and overhauling the unit’s private aids to navigation computer program, a collateral duty normally assigned to a more senior petty officer. Since assuming this collateral duty, she has verified and established contact with the owners of 332 private aids, helping to ensure that all PATON is on station and watching properly before the long Great Lakes winter.

Bainbridge’s efforts have earned her high praise at not just the unit level, but from the Coast Guard Ninth District Department of Waterways Management staff who oversee all Great Lakes PATON.

“ANT Buffalo is leading the district with its innovative PATON organization and administration,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Lisner, a member of the Ninth District Waterways Department.

“Despite having the largest area in the Great Lakes, her keen attention to detail and the effort put into the program at the unit level has made my job a lot easier at the district level.”

In addition to her PATON responsibilities, Bainbridge has taken on the collateral duty of maintaining, inspecting and servicing the unit’s ATON rigging gear. This includes inspecting the wire rope, hooks, shackles and other load handling equipment used in buoy operations.

“The crew’s safety depends on that rigging gear being fully functional,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Tom Beaudoin, ANT Buffalo’s executive petty officer.

“ATON operations are one of the most dangerous evolutions in the Coast Guard, but Bainbridge’s ability to properly maintain the gear helps us to accomplish our mission safely.”

Bainbridge enjoys spending her off duty time with her daughter Hadley and friends. She donates to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, the Wounded Warrior Project and Habitat for Humanity. She is a self-professed fanatic of “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel and loves working buoys.

“I love working on the buoy deck,” Bainbridge said.

“Where else in the Coast Guard can you be as loud as you want, get dirty and hit things with a sledgehammer?”

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