Shane Gonczi, the Montauk Coast Guard station’s sailor of the quarter, said his mother was not sure she wanted her son to join the military at first. He grew up in New Jersey, played trumpet in the high school marching band, then, “Dad and I were at a boat show, and I saw the auxiliary,” Seaman Gonczi said while on watch monitoring radio traffic, listening for distress calls, and updating the weather at the Montauk search and rescue station on Monday.
By “auxiliary” he meant the Coast Guard Auxiliary, which he decided to join while still in high school. He wound up serving with the organization for four years, a step that both allayed his mother’s fears and led to his heading for Coast Guard boot camp in March of 2011.
At about the same time he started college he was working for a cruise line in New Jersey with the goal of accruing enough sea time to one day earn a license to operate 100-ton vessels. “I was being taught how to drive a ship, but I was just 20 and thought, who’s going to hire a young hotshot. I was going to college and working at the same time. School wasn’t doing it, so I talked to a recruiter.”
The Montauk station is Mr. Gonczi’s first assignment. He joined the station just over a year ago after enlisting for a six-year tour, the maximum length permitted out of the starting gate. Mr. Gonczi said he had a standing invitation to rejoin the cruise line whenever he decided to leave the Guard, which could be a while. He said he’s thinking career.
“Big G,” as the 22-year-old Coastie is known, was selected the station’s sailor of the quarter for October through December of 2012 by his peers for “exemplifying the pride, dedication, and professionalism that contributed to Station Montauk’s overall operational readiness,” according to the citation. The station won the inter-service Sumner Kimball Readiness Award in 2011.
The Montauk station conducts search and rescue and law enforcement operations for Gardiner’s Bay and Block Island Sound. Its range extends 50 miles offshore as well. Because of Montauk’s winter weather, some of the station’s coxswains are qualified to operate the 47-foot motor lifeboat in heavy weather conditions.
The station’s enlisted housing complex is named after a former Montauk station shipmate, Nathan Bruckenthal, the first Coast Guardsman to die in wartime action since the Vietnam War. He was killed by a waterborne suicide attack along with two Navy sailors while protecting an oil depot in the Persian Gulf in April of 2004.
The sailor of the quarter serves as a role model to others on how to perform, especially when a situation demands that a sailor assume greater than normal responsibilities.
Since reporting, he has become a certified watchstander, and crewmember of the station’s two 47-foot motor lifeboats and 25-foot patrol boat. The Montauk station is home to the 87-foot cutter Ridley, which operates as a separate unit.
Mr. Gonczi has earned his qualifications well ahead of deadlines, and has begun the process of “striking” (learning on the job) to become a petty officer, boatswain’s mate. He has also volunteered his free time to help break in new members of the station’s crew. “Seaman Gonczi is a highly self-motivated individual and has been noticed helping his shipmates in times of need,” his citation reads.
“I’m glad my efforts show. I appreciate that my peers appreciate it,” Seaman Gonczi said. More information on the Montauk station can be found on its Web site, uscg.mil/d1/staMontauk/ default.asp.