A Letter from AET1 Scott Lee, U.S. Coast Guard


Where am I now? When we last spoke in 2005, I was a Third Class Petty Officer, two years into a project to bring the newest Coast Guard plane, the HC-130J, into operation. Today, I am a seasoned First Class Petty Officer, two years into a similar project to bring our newest plane, the HC-27J into operation.

Since 2005, we did get the new search equipment for the HC-130J, and we got the planes set up at the Air Station in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. I qualified as a Mission System Operator (MSO) and learned to use the new search equipment to save lives. In fact, if you do a search on a boat named “Gloria A Dios” you can read about a man I saved in 2010. The Navy Carrier Eisenhower helped too. It made national news, and the video I took using the plane’s camera made it on TV and is still on the internet.

As the MSO on that flight, I was the one responsible for finding the boat and its one crew member. I was able to triangulate his position using our direction finding radios. Once we got in range of the boat, I contacted him on his hand held radio and asked him to launch a flare. The flare came up through the clouds right in front of our plane. The instructors at DoD STARBASE were the first ones to teach me about triangulation, radios and survival equipment. I specifically remember your life support personnel during a lecture telling us, “Listen up, this could save a life one day.”

Over the past 14 years, I have taken our Coast Guard planes to many air shows and given tours to many classes from our local schools. I can now relate to your military volunteers and the joy and fear they must have had having tens to hundreds of students set loose on the plane. I remember back then, when I was on a tour myself, pushing quite a few buttons while the pilots weren’t looking and trying desperately to find an ejection seat handle.

In 2010, I moved to Miami, Florida and helped setup another of our new planes, the HC-144. Most people have never seen or heard of the C-27J or the HC-144. They are both smaller, two engine versions of the C-130. While in Miami I was also a MSO and used our search equipment to aid in maritime law enforcement missions. In 2014, I moved back to North Carolina and started on the C-27J project that I am working on now. I spent most of 2014 and 2015 in Arizona at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) “Bone Yard” getting our planes ready to fly again. I spent most of last summer in California setting up Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento with four of the HC-27Js.

I would like to say all of that was easy and went according to plan, but this is military aviation so…thankfully, someone at DoD STARBASE back when I was in 5th grade, taught me about team building, leadership and problem solving, not to mention Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Much like handing an 11 year-old a bucket of LEGOs and asking them to create a viable moon base, this job requires a lot of creative thinking. I’m currently an Avionics and Electrical Technician in charge of two dozen personnel who are tasked with maintaining and flying a plane that is completely new to everyone.

What I learned back in 5th grade at DoD STARBASE stands out as foundation for the experience I use daily. The amount of times I’ve needed to convince five people to sit down and work together or had the need to convert from metric to standard, gallons to pounds, nautical miles to statute mile, or just needed to navigate across an ocean while calculating the amount of gas we will need to get back home, are too many to count. These are all concepts I learned in 5th grade at DoD STARBASE. I really do love what I do. It’s a challenging hands-on job where I can do anything I set my mind to and it all started with you. Thanks!

AET1 Scott Lee