Of the 40,000 or so active-duty members of the U.S. Coast Guard, some people just stand out.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sarah Jacobs, a marine science technician (MST) stationed in Seward is one of them.
Jacobs has distinguished herself as one of the most motivated and effective enlisted members in the service, by earning qualifications and performing roles traditionally reserved for members of a higher rank.
But most people lucky enough to meet Jacobs, whether on the job or off, simply appreciate her down-to-earth demeanor, and propensity for conversation.
"Petty Officer Jacobs consistently puts others before herself and displays a positive attitude in everything she does," said Chief Warrant Officer Shawn Erwin, her supervisor at Detached Duty Office Seward.
Jacobs recently earned a meritorious advancement — a rare selection for a non-traditional pay grade boost — due to her extensive achievements and impact on maritime safety in the Port of Seward and beyond.
In an office of only two people, her duties encompass many missions. While the primary mission is inspecting the domestic fleet, she also acts as a pollution responder, facility inspector, and commercial fishing vessel examiner. She strives for regulatory compliance through her enthusiastic training sessions, and has established lasting partnerships with the owners and operators.
Jacobs' interpersonal skills and drive to keep people safe make her an especially impactful marine inspector. Her attention to detail allowed her to find major deficiencies and oversee repair plans for numerous vessels, ultimately ensuring safety for crew and passengers.
As a commercial fishing vessel examiner and facility inspector, she has traveled to more than a dozen remote communities throughout Western Alaska, ensuring these remote areas have the resources they need to maintain compliance while facilitating commerce. She conducted commercial fishing vessel safety exams and stability checks for the salmon and crab fishing fleets, promoting safe conditions for crews and passengers.
"When I go aboard a vessel, or I enter a facility, whether it's a small charter fishing vessel, foreign tankship, or a remote fuel storage farm, I connect with the people I meet," said Jacobs. "My job is important because each of these people have a family to go home to, have invested their livelihood in these vessels and facilities, and a clean ocean ensures continued revenue for future generations. My job plays a part in protecting both people and the environment."
Growing up in a military family, Jacobs was inspired to serve by her father, Maj. David Gates (USAF) retired.
"My dad is a huge inspiration in my life and especially so with my military career," said Jacobs. "He was also meritoriously advanced from E5 to E6 so it brings me a lot of joy to feel like I'm walking in his path. As a kid, I watched him devote his life to the Air Force. I saw how well it treated him and our family, and I knew I wanted to join the military as well. I picked the Coast Guard over the Air Force because ever since I was in elementary school, I knew I wanted to somehow be involved in marine science."
From a young age, she enjoyed being near the water and preserving the marine environment.
"We were once on a week-long family sailing trip in Puget Sound when Sarah was in junior high," said Gates. "I suggested we track the sea life we observed so that marine biologists might later use the data in their research. I was just a Dad trying to keep his daughter busy. But she found a logbook and made a ledger to document every sea lion, orca, and other animal we encountered. She kept at this for days, logging the exact GPS location and a detailed description of each animal, scanning the horizon with binoculars to locate more life. As you can imagine, as I was then, I'm very proud of her today."
Jacobs is a married mother of two children, who credits her husband Brandon for supporting her thriving career.
"Brandon has been with me through every step and hurdle I've encountered and supported me through every single one," she said. "He helps me when I'm having a bad day and pushes me forward to meet my goals. He moved with me four times and we've enjoyed amazing adventures. I know I can count on him to take care of our sweet family while I'm deployed. He's an amazing man, father, and husband and I couldn't do what I do without him."
The Jacobs family has enthusiastically embraced life in Alaska.
"We enjoy more of the homestead lifestyle as best as we can considering how often we move," said Jacobs. "We've raised chickens and turkeys and enjoy gathering from what Alaska has to offer and making tasty creations from our harvest! This is something the kiddos love helping out with. They especially love Easter every evening as we collect the pre-colored eggs from our hens! They help us with the garden as we try to save our cabbage patch from the invading moose!"
Despite working at a unit that is physically detached from Sector Anchorage, Jacobs has earned a lasting impression with her command there.
"Petty Officer Jacobs is a high-performing petty officer with contagious enthusiasm, technical competence, and vigorous work ethic that can be seen in all aspects of her performance," said Capt. Leanne Lusk, commanding officer at Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, the unit that oversees Detached Duty Office Seward. "She continues to assume greater responsibility within the Coast Guard. I have no doubt she will continue to thrive as a resourceful, creative, and solution-oriented member of our service."
As the sun began to peek over the mountains surrounding Resurrection Bay on a recent frigid morning in Seward, Jacobs expressed a great sense of gratitude to the Coast Guard for bringing her to such a unique maritime community.
As always, she finished her coffee and went to work.