Meet Your Coast Guard Reserve

This is the eleventh post of a month-long question and answer series, introducing members of the Coast Guard’s Pacific Northwest Reserve Force and recognizing their contributions to our country and community.

Machinery Technician, First Class Jonathan Dixon
U.S. Coast Guard Reserve
Sector Columbia River (Oregon) – Facilities Engineering

Dixon 4

Q. Where is your hometown?
A. I grew up in Forest Grove, Oregon and have always lived in the Portland Area.

Q. How long have you been in the Coast Guard?
A. I have been in the Coast Guard Reserve for 12 years.

Q. Why did you join the Coast Guard? Why do you stay/what keeps you motivated?
A. My father and uncle served in the Coast Guard for more than 20 years. This past summer I traveled to Tampa, Florida for the Commissioning of the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Dixon, the 152-foot fast response cutter named after my uncle. My uncle, Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Richard Dixon, received two Coast Guard Medals for heroic actions while stationed in Tillamook, Oregon. My family history in MK1 Dixon commissioning photothe Coast Guard and the shipmates I work with at Sector Columbia River keep me motivated. I always find challenges within the Coast Guard to benefit my department and enjoy the opportunities to train and attend schools. When my enlistments have been up, it has been easy for me to decide to re-enlist for one big reason – the career development and opportunities for growth within the Coast Guard.

Q. Have you been deployed since joining the reserves? If so, where and when?
A. I deployed once to Orange Beach, Alabama for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010.

Q. What are some of your responsibilities while on duty?
A. At Facilities Engineering, we are the “jack of all trades” group. We fix everything from HVAC systems, lawnmowers, refinishing kitchens and hanging doors. In addition, our collateral (secondary) duty is as Vessel Support Unit Leaders for deployment to incidents within the Incident Command System.

Q. What do you do on a typical duty day?
A. We normally meet first thing Saturday morning as a group. We gather tools and supplies and head out to where the work calls us. We also coordinate with housing department heads ahead of our drill weekends to find out what we need to accomplish and how we can help.

Q. What’s your most memorable experience since joining the Coast Guard?
A. I was attached to Station Portland (Oregon) for 10 years as a boat crewman and boarding officer. In 2008, I was newly graduated from Boarding Officer School and out on patrol in North Portland Harbor. Our team happened upon a group of intoxicated boaters and worked until the early hours of the morning, writing citations, administering field sobriety tests and working with local law enforcement to hold some of the individuals. It was a great opportunity to get some experience in Coast Guard law enforcement. Another great memory is the commissioning ceremony of my uncle’s cutter. I was introduced to the commandant of the Coast Guard, which was a great honor.

Dixon Norwest TankerQ. What is your occupation outside of the Coast Guard? Where?
A. I am a mechanical engineer in Portland, Oregon for Norwest Engineering. Our company designs tank farms, loading docks and piers for the oil and gas industry.

Q. How do you balance Coast Guard and civilian life? Any challenges?
A. Time is the biggest issue. It is difficult to be away from home, miss family events and not be able to spend time with loved ones. Also, it can be a struggle during a week when I drill because I don’t get a day off for 12 days.

Q. Are there any skills you’ve learned through the Coast Guard that you apply to your civilian career and vice versa?
A. Throughout my professional career, I’ve used skills from each of my jobs to benefit the other. I worked in a machine shop through college and my Coast Guard experience as an MK (Machinery Technician) was enough to get me a job. I used many of the skills I learned in “A” school to repair machines and fix all kinds of equipment. Now, as a mechanical engineer in the civilian world, I use many of the skills I’ve learned to design and plan projects in the Coast Guard Facilities Engineering Department so things go smoothly and work as planned.

Q. How does being in the reserves impact the service as a whole?
A. The reserves are unique because they know the active duty side well enough to be a great help to normal operations. Additionally, we have the ability to bring another set of skills from our civilian careers to be an asset to the military for everything from day-to-day activities to huge responses.

Q. Anything else you’d like for us to know/include?
A. I appreciate the opportunity to share a small part of my experiences in the Coast Guard. Serving is important to me and is such a big part of my life.

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