Local Coast Guard Academy graduate is traveling the world

MANAMA, BAHARAIN — In the three short years since Nolan Salyer graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy he has experienced more interesting assignments than some 20-year veterans.

Benzie County Central graduate Nolan Salyer (left) stands with a friend in front of the Morgenthau during a ceremony in Honolulu.

Benzie County Central graduate Nolan Salyer (left) stands with a friend in front of the Morgenthau during a ceremony in Honolulu.

The Benzie Central graduate, who is the son of Manistee Intermediate School District General Education director Kay Salyer and former Onekama Schools counselor Dan Salyer, has been living the dream when it comes to assignments in his young career. Those assignments are also giving him the opportunity to see and work with some very interesting people along the way and to experience many different areas of the world.

During the summer of his final year at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy he did a six-week internship with famed shipwreck expert Bob Ballard aboard his ship Nautilus.

The internship was for an area from the Gulf of Mexico from Key West to Mississippi. They were looking for hydro-thermal events and brine pools which are super dense salty water that are usually associated with methane gas.

Once the internship was completed, Salyer shook hands with then president Barack Obama at the Coast Guard graduation ceremony and began his military career.

He admits with a laugh that his first assignment was one of those tongue-in-cheek, hard-to-go places.

“I was commissioned as an ensign and moved to Honolulu to assume a two year post as a Deck Watch Officer aboard the USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC 722),” said Salyer. “It is a 378-foot cutter with a crew of 178 people and has a mission of Search and Rescue, and law enforcement.”

The area  the Morgenthau was assigned to cover was vast in that area of western hemisphere.

“She could sail anywhere from South America for counter drug smuggling to the Western Pacific for illegal fishing prevention to the Behring Sea for Fisheries Law Enforcement.”

He also had to undergo some extensive training called “breaking in” that resulted in spending time on three different ships to take multiple classes for law enforcement training.

“Eventually I qualified as an Officer of the Deck (OOD) who was responsible for the safe navigation of the ship,” said Salyer. The OOD leads the bridge team and is the direct representative of the captain anytime he is not on the bridge.

Salyer also qualified as a Landing Signals Officer (LSO) and Training Officer. Both duties brought some interesting experiences.

“Being an LSO was especially exciting during search and rescue cases because the siren would go off in the middle of the night and the whole ship would come alive and head to their stations,” said Salyer. “I would rush to the briefing and then out on deck to prepare to launch the helicopter.”

Another one of those “collateral duties” he was assigned was to be the Law Enforcement Officer, meaning he was the lead boarding officer when they came upon a suspicious vessel. It was a task that sometimes brought some memorable individuals they arrested for a variety of infractions.

“I was responsible for case recording and deposition, and then sent the paperwork to the shore units on the cases that needed to be followed up on,” he said.

As time moved along he was promoted to his current rank of Lieutenant Junior grade. He also felt it was time to take on a new challenge, but he wanted it to be something interesting.

“When my two years were coming to a close, I looked at the available jobs and decided to keep traveling, so I put in for a one year Executive Officer (XO) position aboard a 110-foot cutter home ported in Manama, Bahrain.”

It was the assignment that Salyer wanted more than anything else.

“In reality, I had probably 50 different picks on the list, but Bahrain was on the top,” said Salyer. “There are six 110 foot Coast Guard cutters based out of Manama and they work alongside the 12 Navy Patrol cutters (170 feet) and several larger mine sweepers that are permanently based there.”

Salyer was stationed about the USCGC Aquidneck (WPB 1309) as the Executive Officer, but before he arrived he had some training at a very famous place in recent American history.

“Prior to flying to the Middle East, I attended a two-month training course at the former Blackwater campus in Mayock, N.C.,  which is now under new management,” said Salyer.

The facility gained fame during the war in Iraq. Training included what is expected for dealing with area like the Middle East. It included being qualified for multiple weapons system, pistols and rifles to grenade launchers.

After a short stop back home to visit his parents, he left for the Middle East to many of the areas that traditionally have been hot spots.

“The executive officer is second in command aboard ship,” said Salyer. “As the XO, I was responsible for the plan of the day, discipline and administration for the cutter.”

The cutter had a 22 person crew and typically went out on six day patrols, often making port calls in nearby Arabian Gulf cities or bases like Dubai UAE Kuwait Naval Base, Doha Qatar and Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia. They also exited the Arabian Gulf using the Straight of Hormuz that became famous in the Gulf War for Iranian mine attacks on merchant vessels.

“Both the Coast Guard patrol boats and Navy cutters have three main missions there which are escorting American or allies merchant vessels transiting the Straight of Hormuz and Arabian Gulf, conducting counter weapons and drug smuggling boardings on traffickers (typically from Iran or Pakistan to other nations like Yemen), and participating in international relation building exercises.”

Salyer said his time in Bahrain was memorable. He said the nature of the area creates many interesting encounters.

“Not that we looked for tense situations, but there are memories that will stick with you,” he said. “Situations where we would be escorting a large cargo carrier and Iranian small boats with machine guns come out to harass the convey.”

He said it was almost as if they were waiting for each other to blink first.

“They would point their cameras and guns at us; we would do the same,” he said. “Just posturing and positioning ourselves in case something went wrong and filming it to use in the ever important information war. As the XO I drove the cutter during these situations, so it’s definitely among my proudest memories to think about getting the crew and our escort out of these situations safely.”

Salyer said when they were back in port, the culture in Bahrain is pretty typical for that area of the Middle East and the majority of them are Muslim. One thing that is unique is the main language is Arabic, but most everyone speaks English as well.

“About half the population wear traditional attire including the robes for men and burkas and hijabs for women,” said Salyer. “There is a moderately sized population of extremely wealthy families and a small middle class. The rest are poor laborers, typically immigrant workers from countries like India, Thailand and the Phillipines .

While he was in Bahrain he applied for his next position which will be serving as captain of the USCGC TERN (WPB 87343) which is located in San Francisco. He will be leaving soon for that West Coast assignment, but has other plans in the works.

His “other plan” is to get a master’s degree in marine biology.

“The Coast Guard has this great program where — like my bachelor’s degree — they’ll pay for a master’s degree with the agreement to ‘pay back’ my degree with two more years of service in a job related to my degree,” said Salyer. “Officers in the past who have pursued the marine biology degree have ‘paid back’ with jobs as the Coast Guard liaison to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington D.C. or as other liaison or policy writing jobs.”

Salyer said that pretty much plans out seven more years in the Coast Guard, but his goal is to be in it for the long haul, and attending the academy is something he has never regretted.

His success and the many things he has accomplished  is something that he attributes to his mother.

“I would have never even started on this journey if it weren’t for the love and hard work of my mother,” he said. “She’s the reason I made it this far and it will be a testament to her support if I continue to succeed.”

Salyer’s parents are very proud of what he has accomplished.

“Nolan has worked hard for his success,” said Kay. “He also has a lot of emotional intelligence. He’s the kind of kid that remembers you said you had a presentation coming up you were worried about, and asks how it went. His dad and I are very proud of him. We plan to be those annoying retired parents that move out to where their kids live and hover a little too close.”

But for now he is just living the dream and loving every moment of it.

 

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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