From an early age, Coast Guard called her to a career

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For Elizabeth Young, Coast Guard Commander and auxiliary director for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Vermont, it was a flier from the auxiliary that defined her career choice right after high school.

Imagine if a piece of mail not addressed to you determined what you would do for the next 19 years of your life.

For Elizabeth Young, Coast Guard Commander and auxiliary director for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Vermont, it was a flier from the auxiliary that defined her career choice right after high school.

“The auxiliary basically got me into the Coast Guard,” says Young, 40. “I grew up in Kingston, N.Y., and I believe I was a junior in high school when I saw it stuck in between our regular mail.”

As she read the flier while sitting at the kitchen table, she realized it was something that she could see herself doing.

“I thought, ‘I like water, and I like helping people, this looks cool,’ ” says Young. “I didn’t know anything about it, so [I] applied to the Coast Guard Academy and was conditionally accepted.”

In her last few months in high school, an auxiliarist named Harold Morrill took her under his wing and showed her some of the ropes, arranging for her to visit Governor’s Island in New York near lower Manhattan, which was a Coast Guard and U.S. Army military base until 1996.

“I remember it was in the spring of ‘85,” says Young. “He introduced me to numerous people involved in the Coast Guard and the auxiliary. I got a sense of what I was getting myself into.”

After graduating from Kingston High School in 1985, she attended the academy in New London, Conn., and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics and computer science. She went on to serve as a deck watch officer, boarding officer, and CIC officer at USCGC Northland cutter based in Portsmouth, Va., until 1991 and then proceeded to be an instructor at the Officer Candidate School in Yorktown, Va., until 1993. She attended Navy flight school from 1993 to 1995 and soon found herself hitting the skies as an HU-25 Falcon pilot for Air Station Cape Cod in Massachusetts until 2000 and then at Air Station Miami as safety department and facilities engineering department head until 2005, while continuing her duties as a pilot.

“We used to do a lot of medical evacuations, such as transporting women in labor or car accident victims,” says Young. “Sometimes it was scary, but it was always fulfilling to know that if you weren’t there, they probably wouldn’t make it.”

One memorable evacuation Young recalls was from a cruise ship in the Caribbean. She met the helicopter that had airlifted the person from the ship at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to take the person back with them to Air Station Miami to arrange for medical treatment. But Young was forced to fly into the heart of a fast-developing and severe thunderstorm.

“It developed so fast, and it would’ve taken hours to fly around it,” says Young. “It was high winds, hail — the works. I didn’t know if we were going to make it through, but we did.”

Having been commander for three years now, Young has never looked back. In fact, she awarded her mentor Morrill, who is now 79, with his crew certificate while they were patrolling along the Hudson River.

“It’s come full circle,” says Young. “I’ve been in the Coast Guard for 19 years, and I think if anyone is interested in getting experience the best way is to contact the auxiliary. It is very challenging, but it is very rewarding.”

Young says she is proud to serve as director of the auxiliary because they are an inspiration to what she does every day.

“These people volunteer their own time to be part of this, and it reminds me why I’m here,” says Young. “The auxiliary motivates me.”

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