Coast Guardsmen keep cadence across Pacific Northwest to uphold shipmate spirit

Four Coast Guard runners (right) wait near runner Exchange 15 on the Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage course in Mount Vernon, Wash., July 15, 2016.

Four Coast Guard runners (right) wait near runner Exchange 15 on the Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage course in Mount Vernon, Wash., July 15, 2016. The Coast Guard team, District 13, was comprised of 10 active-duty members from the Coast Guard 13th District in Seattle and two civilians. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Sarah Wilson.

Story by Seaman Sarah Wilson.

It’s hour six of a race through the Northwest Passage in Washington. Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Brown paces anxiously along a pine-rimmed road. Soon it will be his turn to battle the course, taking the baton from teammate Lt. Brett Huntley to run the 6th leg of a 30-hour, 200-mile relay race.

This was a scene from the 2016 Ragnar Relay from Blaine to Langley, where more than 500 teams of runners from around the nation pushed through mental and physical exhaustion to cross the finish line July 16.

Brown, Huntley, two civilians and eight other active-duty Coast Guard members made up the inaugural Coast Guard Ragnar Relay team that competed against thousands of other runners for bragging rights and ‘road kill,’ a term used in long-distance racing to describe passing racers from other teams.

Lt. Dana Warr hands a relay baton bracelet to Lt. Sarah Dorsey near Mount Vernon, Wash., during Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage, July 15, 2016.

Lt. Dana Warr hands a relay baton bracelet to Lt. Sarah Dorsey near Mount Vernon, Wash., during Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage, July 15, 2016. The Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage was a 196-mile, overnight relay race along the Washington coast from Blaine to Langley. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Sarah Wilson.

Participating in the race was not just about winning, setting a personal best or individual runners pushing through the sweat and pain. Even on land, miles away from the nearest Coast Guard station, it was about being a shipmate.

“Overnight relays are not regular races,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Matt Brown, team captain. “You spend 30 hours in a van with your team, feeling tired together, feeling sore together and cheering each other on. You form a bond and it becomes an unforgettable experience.”

The term shipmate implies solidarity through violent seas and hard-fought missions. It epitomizes self-sacrifice and esprit de corps. It promises to put individual differences aside and take a stand for each other.

Being a shipmate — as more than just a job, but as a way of life — keeps alive the public service and patriotism that have shaped the Coast Guard since 1790. It honors fallen heroes who died “So others may live.”

“I think events like Ragnar are a chance to get back in touch with our standards as a Coast Guard,” said Chief Petty Officer Lindsay Taylor, who ran a total of 12 miles during the Ragnar Relay. “Principles like loyalty and dedication to service are just as important to our missions as technology and training.”

Whether running a relay race across the Pacific Northwest or simply staying after work to help a new crewmember with qualifications, on shore or underway, each day offers a new opportunity to buoy up the time-honored tradition of being a shipmate.

A group of Coast Guardsmen and two civilians pose for a photo in Langley, Wash., after they completed the 2016 Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage as a team, July 16, 2016.

A group of Coast Guardsmen and two civilians pose for a photo in Langley, Wash., after they completed the 2016 Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage as a team, July 16, 2016. The team finished the 196-mile race through the Northwest Passage in 30 hours and 9 minutes. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Sarah Wilson.

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