Coast Guard Welcomes Home an 'Old Bear'

New London, Conn. – There is sports and there is real life. Sometimes they're on the same page, sometimes they're on separate planets, and sometimes there's a little of both. One only has to look at the picture of the heavily armed Coast Guard patrol boat on the wall and the "Gimme Shelter" song by the Rolling Stones pouring out of the men's lacrosse locker room at Billard Hall at the United States Coast Guard Academy to understand this dichotomy.

As you venture out of Billard Hall onto Cadet Memorial Field, the dichotomy continues as cadets warm-up taking shots on goals adorned with flags honoring members of the Coast Guard Academy Men's Lacrosse brotherhood that made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of this country. That service continues as each class of Coast Guard Academy Men's Lacrosse players graduate and take their place in the long blue line of Guardians on watch.

One of these Guardians, LTJG Patrick "Patty" Powers is a member of the Coast Guard Academy Class of 2008 and one of the most decorated players in the 28 year history of Bears Lacrosse. In addition to being named Team Captain for his final two campaigns in New London, his 2008 honors included Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) Division 2 All-American – Second Team, Pioneer Collegiate Lacrosse League (PCLL) Division 2 All-Conference–First Team and PCLL Division 2 Defensive Player of the Year.

A native of Glens Falls, NY, Powers recently returned home from a one-year deployment to the Middle East as the Operations Officer aboard the 110-foot Island class coastal patrol boat, USCGC BARANOF as part of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA). Established in 2002 in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and New Dawn, PATFORSWA is the Coast Guard's largest unit outside of the United States.

PATFORSWA has played a key role in maritime security and maritime infrastructure protection operations. PATFORSWA is comprised of six 110-foot patrol boats, associated shore side support personnel and other deployable specialized forces operating throughout the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility, including Afghanistan and Iraq. In theatre, Powers was responsible for the operational planning and execution of over 4,000 underway hours throughout the Arabian Gulf.

As one of the Nation's five Armed Forces, the United States Coast Guard has participated in every major U.S. conflict from 1790 through today, including landing troops on D-Day and on the Pacific Islands in World War II, in extensive patrols, shore bombardment and Combat Search and Rescue during the Vietnam War, and multiple roles in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Maritime interception operations, coastal security, transportation security, and law enforcement detachments have been its major roles in recent conflicts in Iraq.

Leadership in today's world can be hard to come by. There are few professions in today's world in which you sacrifice such a big part of your life. "When you get over there, it's no joke, at 24 years old I was expected to lead and care for 20 enlisted sailors 7,000 miles away from their families and the only life they had ever known" says Powers.

"I had grown men, who were 10 to 15 years older than me looking to me for direction and support. Four demanding years at the Coast Guard Academy, including my time on the lacrosse field, laid the foundation about which I relied on day-in, day-out as the leadership challenges arose. I was deployed for 374 days and can tell you honestly that I was challenged on every one of them. It was an incredible experience overall but nothing will ever trump the fact that my crew and I were underway patrolling the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation New Dawn the day that Osama Bin Laden was finally laid to rest."

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