On the tail end of one of the most active hurricane seasons in recent years, many people on the Gulf Coast are still picking up the pieces from the destruction that Hurricane Zeta left behind.
Reading that statement, most people’s thoughts tend to lean toward the residents of the Gulf Coast that may have had property damage or businesses that are trying to balance the struggles of the hurricane season and the pandemic.
But many don’t think about the people behind the scenes who are helping pick up the pieces along the coast. Captain LaDonn A. Allen of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) is one of those people.
“We are there to prevent things from happening,” Captain Allen stated, “and if we can’t, we are there to clean them up.”
Obviously, the Coast Guard cannot prevent natural disasters from happening, but they do play a large part in ensuring the safety of the coast in several other ways.
“A lot of search and rescue is involved in this job and we save a lot of lives,” Captain Allen explained, “We are on duty 24/7, standing watch.”
In her current role as Commander of the USCG Sector Mobile, which she has held since 2019, Captain Allen’s official title is: Captain of the Port, Federal Security Coordinator, Federal on Scene Coordinator, Officer in Charge of Marine Inspections, and the Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator, and Active Suspension Authority.
That may be a large title to digest, but Captain Allen made it clear her title in essence means she is in charge of a large group of individuals dedicated to safety and security of the waterways and the residents who depend on them.
The USCG Sector Mobile’s main responsibilities include Search and Rescue Efforts, Law Enforcement, Homeland Security, and enforcing all Federal laws in the maritime domain. Those responsibilities also include protecting living marine resources and responding to reports of marine pollution.
“I would say we are the doctors of the maritime environment,” Captain Allen stated.
Those “doctors” total over 1200 personnel in Captain Allen’s sector, including almost 400 auxiliary members. These auxiliary members are qualified and trained volunteers, many of whom are retired military who want to continue to serve.
Together, this group of individuals, led by Captain Allen, is divided into 18 sub-units across 5 deep water ports and 1,700 nautical miles of inland, river, and coastal waterways. These units also ensure maritime safety and security by servicing aids to navigation, inspecting and investigating domestic vessels and facilities, and conducting extensive examinations of foreign vessels wanting to enter US waters.
“Anything can happen at any given time in the port,” Captain Allen noted.
And her years of experience in the Coast Guard definitely back up that statement. Although Captain Allen has only been in her current position since 2019, she has served in the USCG for over 26 years.
When asked about her reason for joining this branch of the military, Captain Allen responded, “I believe the Coast Guard chose me."
She stated that the Coast Guard became her number one choice while living in Washington D.C. when she became involved with the Coast Guard as a civilian.
Since joining the USCG, Captain Allen has served in a variety of roles in several states, including Virginia, a previous tour in Alabama; South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Colorado.
“When people think of the Coast Guard they don’t typically think of a place like Colorado,” Captain Allen explained, “but, if there is a waterway, then the Coast Guard is there.”
And speaking of the waterways, Captain Allen wanted to emphasis just how important the maritime industry is to everything and everyone.
“It plays a huge role in the economy,” Allen mentioned, “If ports closed, I don’t even want to think about the domino effect it would have on the economic ecosystem in the United States and worldwide.”
That is why jobs like Captain Allen’s, though the titles may be lengthy, are important to those of us on the Gulf Coast and those in landlocked states as well. We need our economic ecosystem to thrive; we need our maritime industry to stay safe; and we need the members of the Coast Guard like Captain Allen, to help lead the way.
For more information about Captain Allen's responsibilites as Commander, click here.
And don't forget to like the USCG Sector Mobile on Facebook here!
"Shanghaied" sailors were sometimes drugged and abducted on board ships that were short-handed. Pacific-coast mariners dreaded Shanghai, China because it was so difficult to work a passage directly home. When we "shanghai" someone today, we take them from their planned activities.