Coast Guardsman of the Year: Petty Officer First Class Nathan Reynolds

In a furious storm, Petty Officer First Class Nathan Reynolds took a small boat to look for four people in the water after an accident in the Chesapeake Bay. Searching in the dark, he found them and rescued them with his team.

Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Nathan Reynolds says job satisfaction only comes from realizing what he has accomplished for others.

With more than 11 years in the Coast Guard, Reynolds, 29, is on the way to his fourth duty station. He still looks forward to coming to work because he believes on a deep level that what he does matters.

“I’m a small boat coxswain whose primary mission is doing search and rescue,” he said. “And I love it. Because on someone’s worst day, you can be a ray of sunshine. It’s about giving back and helping others when they need it.”

Reynolds is credited with saving nine lives during search and rescue missions in the past several months. He will be honored as the Coast Guardsman of the Year at the annual Servicemembers of the Year Award ceremony in Washington, D.C., on July 10.

For Reynolds, the Coast Guard is a family business. He is the son of a senior chief boatswain’s mate who served for 26 years.

He knew from an early age that the same job and career would eventually be his.

“I really didn’t think of doing anything else,” he said.

He recalls one rescue in the wee hours of the morning in December 2018. It came at a time when the federal government was shut down, so he and about 40,000 Coasties were not expecting to receive paychecks. Nevertheless, he and his shipmates were out searching the Chesapeake Bay in darkness and finally found four people — with no boat — floating in the water.

“You get done and you’ve been up half the night, and you found those people when they needed you the most,” he said.

“It’s one of those things that at the end of the day, you look back and say, good golly, that was a good day.”

He just sewed on a first-class crow last March, and he wants to complete at least 20 years in the Coast Guard. “I want to make chief and become either the officer in charge of an aids-to-navigation team or station of my own,” he said.

“I’ve got eight-years left at a minimum and hopefully I can make them count for the betterment of others.”