USCG Adm. Zukunft: The Man, His Mission

USCG Adm. Zukunft.   Photo credit USCG  Patrick Kelly, Photographer to the Commandant.

USCG Adm. Zukunft.
Photo credit USCG Patrick Kelly, Photographer to the Commandant.

Admiral Zukunft looked back on his first year as the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard in an interview he gave with  The interview was wide ranging and covered the challenges the U.S. Coast Guard faces over the next several decades with expanding duties and tighter budgets.

Of interest to me are the challenges faced by the Cost Guard with Polar operations with only on heavy icebreaker the Polar Star.  The Coast Guard also has only one research icebreaker The Healy ( A Luncheon Cruise & Tour on the Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy ).  Both home ported here in Seattle

One of the continuing themes and training in the Coast Guard is that you are part of a team, with standardized training, and the decisions are pushed down to the lowest level possible.  That is one of the “secrets” that allowed the Coast Guard to function so well after Hurricane Katrina.

The Admiral looked back on his early days and some defining moments in his career when he was in command of of the Coast Guard Cutter Cape Upward a 95 foot patrol boat in 1980.  They came upon a 60 foot vessel in distress with about 200 people on board, with his crew of 16 and his all of three years experience they got all 200 people safely onto the Cape Upward.  It was a team effort that he could not have done by himself.

Later on in the interview Admiral Zukunft went on:

Ultimately, you have to be humble in what you do and say, but what does that mean? I talked about my first command afloat. My last command afloat, was on the Coast Guard cutter Rush. It was just taken out of service last year, old beyond her years. But when I was on there as a captain, and we’re on the bridge wing, and we’re getting ready to get underway. I’ve got my self-important hand on my hip, and the other is holding a cup of coffee, and then I looked back and I’m looking at our fire control radar, and I look back at our air search radar, I look at our gun weapons system, I look at all the other antennae arrays up there, and said, “I think I know about what two-thirds of those do. I can’t fix any one of them.”

And then I look at our main console: we’ve got two diesels, we’ve got two turbine engines, and I said, “Okay, I probably don’t know how to maintain either one of them, I can call somebody in the engine room and say, ‘Hey, I need 30 knots and I need it now, they can fire up the turbine and away we go.” And then I look at the white paint, and said, ‘Out of all these things on here, about the only thing that I could really do is paint the ship. Everything else you do through others.’ So you need to make sure that you know who those people are and that you value them, as well.

But if you think that your self-important hand on your hip makes you all-knowing, you’re kidding yourself.

You’re an emperor with no clothes.

Read the entire interview at

Thanks for your interest in and support of Boating Safety.

– c / m –

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1 Response to USCG Adm. Zukunft: The Man, His Mission

  1. Captain Dan Woodworth says:

    Smart man and great words to remember.

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