Though I’ve driven past the U.S. Coast Guard Station at the foot of the Hoan Bridge in Bay View for years, I never really gave it much thought. When I arrived there last week for a trip out to the Breakwater Lighthouse, I was surprised by how much hustle and bustle there was and by how little I knew about it.
The station is headquarters of the Coast Guard's Sector Lake Michigan.
The halls were full of Coast Guard personnel and there was a buzz of activity. Out back, a group of guardsmen and guardswomen were standing in formation, looking like they were taking part in a roll call.
(Incidentally, the personnel at the station do not live on-site, but have homes and apartments in the Milwaukee area during their tours of duty here.)
And I was surprised that there’s a shop in the building that sells food and beverage and all manner of items at deep discounts to active and retired military.
Even my contact, Jon Grob, BOSN3, said he was a little surprised by some things he’s learned as a guard member.
"When I first came in, I didn’t know about the lighthouse duty," he said while we waited for the arrival of the boat that would take us to the breakwater. "The lighthouse service was brought into the Coast Guard. It merged, it was a separate group."
While the Aids to Navigation aspect of the Coast Guard is important, it’s just one of many activities performed by the local guardsmen. The day after my visit, for example, personnel from the Milwaukee station responded to a fatal plane crash on Lake Michigan.
"Stations (like Milwaukee’s) have multiple missions," said Grob.
"They'll do ports and waterways safety, just patrolling; they’ll do law enforcement, like safety boardings checking for safety equipment; they'll engage with boating and drinking, of course, is a huge part. We try to have a big presence especially on big boating holidays, we’re all over. We have safety zone enforcement, too (keeping boaters clear of fireworks launch sites, special events, et…Read more...