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Hard-charging Coastie is 2013 Navy Times Coast Guardsman of the Year

Jul. 15, 2013 - 08:02PM   |  
BM1 Chase Severns
BM1 Chase Severns, operations officer onboard the USCGC Haddock (WPB-87347), is the 2013 Navy Times' Coast Guardsman of the Year (Robert Benson)
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BM1 Chase Severns Hometown: Boise, Idaho
When he joined: 2006
Job: Operations petty officer aboard the coastal patrol boat Haddock in San Diego. This month he became the new executive petty officer at Aids to Navigation Team in Kennewick, Wash.
2012 volunteer work: Habitat for Humanity, mentoring with the Partnership In Education Program at Logan Elementary School, 5K charity runs, volunteering at the senior center at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.
Family life: The 31-year-old is married to Dawn Robyn Severns, who served as Haddock’s ombudsman. They have a 7-month-old son, Caden.

Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Chase Severns was in the midst of a life milestone. Severns and his wife, getting ready for their first child, had gathered with friends and Severns’ crew members for a baby shower in their honor. But during the celebration, the crew was called out to escort FBI agents investigating a murder at sea.

Lt. j.g. Anthony Myers, the commanding officer of the Haddock, was loath to take Severns away from his pregnant wife at that moment.

But Severns looked at Myers and said: “It’s what we do sir, it’s what we do.”

Severns’ calm demeanor and devotion to the mission, Myers said, is just part of what makes him one of the best Coast Guardsmen he has ever served with.

Officially, Severns is Haddock’s operations petty officer. He’s also the training petty officer and the senior coxswain. Unofficially, he is a motivator, counselor, teacher and a role model.

In his community, Severns enjoys pitching in with Habitat for Humanity, volunteering at a senior center and regularly taking part in charity runs.

It is for his leadership to his crew, his devotion to the Coast Guard and his service to his community that Severns is Navy Times’ Coast Guardsman of the Year.

The 6-foot-2 Severns played football in high school and college. When college didn’t work out, and neither did a construction job in Idaho, Severns decided to join the Coast Guard. He headed to Cape May in April 2006, when he was 23.

He arrived at the coastal patrol boat Haddock in Sector San Diego in December 2010. The ship’s crew works up to 200 miles offshore, and was recognized in 2012 with a Meritorious Unit Commendation for their counterdrug operations. The 12-person crew seized more than 12,000 pounds of marijuana last year, worth an estimated $11 million.

That achievement would have been impossible without Severns, Myers said.

In one case, suspected smugglers ditched bales of marijuana into the water as the Haddock approached. With 15 minutes of sunlight left, and the evidence floating miles away in the water, Severns came up with a plan: Deploy the small boat to locate the jettisoned cargo, while other shipmates guarded the suspects.

Thanks to Severns’ quick thinking, the crew was able to recover more than 800 pounds of narcotics, Myers said.

Severns is highly competitive, said Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Henry Audette, Severns’ former officer in charge at the Aids to Navigation Team in Fort Pierce, Fla. But what makes Severns different is that he wants everyone else to succeed with him, he said.

“He wants to be great, but he also wants to help other people be great,” Audette said.

At the Haddock, for example, Severns started a challenge to get the crew to study and sign up for their next Rating Advancement Test.

BM2 Troy Dostart, another Haddock department head, credits Severns with helping him get selected to first class. “He is what we would call a hard-charger,” Dostart said, “It definitely lit a fire under my rear.”

Myers calls Severns a “superior technical expert.

“He knows the bridge better than anybody, better than me,” he said.

Perfectionism is a trait Severns said he learned from his grandfather, a Navy veteran. He said his grandfather, who owned a construction business, would never accept anything less than the best work.

“He said if you are going to do a job, do it right the first time,” Severns said. “I don’t try to submit something unless it is right up to standard. My grandfather taught me that from the get-go.”

Severns said he also learned the importance of community from his grandfather.

“I had a lot of people give to me, take care of me, help me in situations,” he said.

Severns has helped serve food at a senior center and also mentored a kindergarten class with the Haddock crew. But with his background in construction, Severns says he is most proud of his work with Habitat for Humanity, as well as enlisting his fellow Coasties to help.

It was while building a Habitat house that Myers noted Severns was almost a father figure to some of the crew, teaching them about construction.

Seaman Ian Sharkey, a junior nonrate who has been aboard the Haddock less than 11 months, said he looks to Severns as a role model.

“He can be kind of a disciplinarian, but mostly, he has taken on a teacher role,” Sharkey said.

He can recount plenty of midwatches spent at the bridge with Severns helping him study for his quals. “If there is anything I’m ever unsure about, I can always find the answer from him,” Sharkey said.

Severns started a new job at the Aids to Navigation Team in Kennewick, Wash., on July 8. He hopes that if his Haddock shipmates ever get the opportunity to work with him again, they will take it.

In the short term, Severns’ sights are set on passing his officer-in-charge certification and pinning on his anchors.

But he has a long-term goal, too.

“I want to keep moving forward and eventually, hopefully, be the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard,” he said.

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