Photo Essay by David Lau
U.S. Coast Guard aviation maintenance technicians (AMT) are responsible for inspecting, servicing, maintaining, troubleshooting and repairing a variety of aircraft components.
AMTs also fill aircrew positions such as flight engineer, flight mechanic, loadmaster, dropmaster, sensor-systems operator and basic aircrewman.
The Coast Guard AMT specialty consists of 1,606 enlisted members, 96 of whom—or 5.7 percent—are women. What follows are remarks from several of them about their Coast Guard service.
Name: Nicole Rivas
Aircraft: MH-65 Dolphin helicopter
Years of Service: 11
“I knew I wanted to choose a specialty that would give me opportunities to do things that I would never have been able to do outside the Coast Guard. Aviation obviously stood out to me for that, and the AMT specialty interested me because it was something I hadn’t done before. Going from zero mechanical knowledge or experience (I had never even changed the oil in my car before), to fixing and flying in helicopters, seemed like exactly the type of challenge I was looking for in the Coast Guard.
When I first started working on the hangar deck after [my AMT training], I was the only female AMT at the air station. I felt like my supervisors and coworkers had
very low expectations for me and were just assuming that I was going to bring “girl problems” and drama to the hangar deck and AMT shop. So I thought I needed to prove that I was better than my male counterparts to make up for being female and changing the dynamic of the shop. I was also afraid to ask for help because I assumed they would think I was dumb, or weak, or just couldn’t do it. Overcoming that challenge was as easy as getting to know my fellow AMTs. The guys I worked with wanted me to succeed in the specialty just as much as anybody else. They became my teachers, mentors and friends who helped me become a good AMT and truly enjoy my career. I still occasionally feel the need to prove my worth, but now it’s just because I have to prove it to myself that I belong here and deserve the successful career that I’ve had so far.”
Name: Melissa Owen
Aircraft: MH-65 Dolphin helicopter
Years of Service: 4
“I would have to say the flights are my favorite part. Flying above [Atlantic City’s] sparkling casinos at night, circling the Statue of Liberty in New York, and cruising by the monuments in D.C. are definitely what makes my job exciting. The most rewarding flight I had was doing the Jets stadium flyover during the Panthers vs. Jets game. We flew over once the national anthem finished then landed at a nearby airport and drove back to the stadium to watch the game. Everyone was shaking our hands and asking if that was us they saw fly over. It was really something I will never forget.”
“I would say that being in Coast Guard aviation is hard work but it is a field that opens a lot of doors for the future. There are
days where you won’t fly, but you’ll be up to your elbows in grease fixing an engine or changing a transmission. There are days where your whole day consists of fueling and washing planes, and days where you’ll sit behind a desk and order parts for maintenance. Aviation requires attention to detail, critical thinking and good communication.
I haven’t had any issues with my job as a female. My station does well with equal opportunity and diversity. I don’t feel negatively treated in any way. I’m the same as any other AMT.”
Name: Ashley Laugavitz
Aircraft: MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter
Years of Service: 2.5
“I wanted to do something different after high school and try to do what I could to make a difference, so I took my oceanic science teacher’s advice and signed up for the United States Coast Guard. I originally joined to become a marine science technician but decided to take a chance and do something that not many people get to do. That’s when I found the AMT specialty. It sparked my interest because I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and taking on new challenges. I also loved the fact that we would get to fix and fly in helicopters, which is unlike any other specialty in the Coast Guard or any other branch for that matter.
“Since I haven’t been able to fly yet, I’d say that my favorite part is getting to work on the engines. Changing fuel filters, replacing engine starters and getting my hands dirty is what makes this job so rewarding. I go home every day feeling proud of what I accomplished and how much I learned.”
Name: Analise Caveness
Aircraft: C-130J Super Hercules fixed-wing aircraft
Years of Service: 5
“My first station was a 378-foot cutter out of Hawaii. I got to see pretty much all of the Coast Guard’s specialties. I was up in the air about what specialty I wanted to choose. It wasn’t until I got to talk to the flight crew on one of the deployments that I thought, ‘Ok, I could do this for 20 years.’ I’ve been happy with it ever since.”
“There are countless opportunities; all you have to do is look for them. If you have the will for it, nothing is impossible. Also, keep your head up!”