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Coast Guard medical personnel charting a course of compassionate care in the Pacific : Maui Now


Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven Zea, a deployed health services technician, observes operations aboard the USCGC Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) in the Coral Sea off Papua New Guinea on Aug. 25, 2023, during a 46-day expeditionary patrol. US Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Sara Muir

In the vast oceanic stretches of the US Coast Guard’s 14th District and the Blue Pacific, skilled medical personnel like Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Zea on Fast Response Cutters, especially during expeditionary patrols, is not just a necessity; it’s a lifeline. 

These patrols routinely take crews well over 200 nautical miles from shore, venturing into remote and austere environments where quick and expert medical care is critical.

Zea, an independent-duty health services technician serving as a medical support professional aboard US Coast Guard platforms, illustrates the Service’s dedication to safeguarding members’ wellbeing.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven Zea, a deployed health services technician, participates in a bridge briefing aboard the USCGC Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) off Papua New Guinea on Aug. 31, 2023, during a 46-day expeditionary patrol. US Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Sara Muir

“Being out here, on the vast Pacific, the realization of just how crucial our role is becoming even more evident,” said Zea. “Every day brings new challenges, and being able to provide medical support here is not just a duty; it’s a calling.”


A desire to acquire medical knowledge for his family’s welfare fueled Zea’s journey into the medical field. This personal quest has evolved into a profound commitment to serving his fellow Coast Guard members. Of Colombian descent, and he’s a first-generation American raised in North Carolina, Zea’s diverse background enriches his approach to medical care, bedside manners, and team dynamics. 

Zea joined the Service to be a health services technician. After basic training, 2015 found him at the helm, breaking ice on the Hudson River aboard the USCGC Sturgeon Bay as a seaman. Fast forward to 2018, and he was an HS2 helping respond to the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Florida while assigned to Training Center Petaluma, California. Thus, he’s no stranger to deployments and emergency response. 

Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven Zea, a deployed health services technician (lower left), stands for a photo with the deck force aboard the USCGC Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) as they depart Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, on Aug. 31, 2023, during a 46-day expeditionary patrol. US Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Sara Muir

The recent establishment of the US Coast Guard Logistics Command Expeditionary Deployable Support Team (LOG-X DST) demonstrates the US Coast Guard’s strategic shift to enhance field service capabilities. This initiative underscores a comprehensive approach to support, including critical medical services. Professionals like Zea are central to this team, ensuring robust health and safety protocols even in the most secluded operational areas.

A particularly poignant instance highlighting Zea’s expertise surfaced during a joint law enforcement operation by the USCGC Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) and embedded law enforcement officers from Papua New Guinea while in the Coral Sea in September. Following a boarding on a foreign fishing vessel, a Coast Guard member suffered a significant leg injury in a ship-to-ship transfer. Zea’s swift and adept intervention was pivotal. 


“It was after sunset, and I was piped to the back deck. When I saw the member unable to put weight on the leg, I knew quick action was needed. Given our remote location, it was challenging, but we train for these moments. It’s been three months, and the member is doing well,” Zea recalled.

His effective management of the injury not only facilitated the member’s initial recovery but also supported the continued success of the mission. The joint patrol marked a significant first with Papua New Guinea as the operations came on the heels of signing a bilateral law enforcement agreement between Papua New Guinea and the US to counter illicit maritime activity, particularly illegal fishing, and protect their sovereignty inside the nation’s exclusive economic zone. 

HS1 Zea’s aspirations don’t just lie in the present. “I’m deeply passionate about medications and their effects. I see myself delving more into this field, possibly pursuing pharmacy school. There’s so much more to learn and share,” he said.

US Coast Guard HSs are in demand, and there needs to be more of them. Participation in these long-distance deployments on FRCs is critical despite the platform not being billeted for an HS. The original planning had the crews operating within 200 nautical miles; in most places, a higher level of medical care is more accessible. 


The US Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam collaboration with US Naval Hospital Guam has been a cornerstone in elevating the medical capabilities of these cutters when HSs are in short supply. It is an alternate option to increase the care available to FRC crews. In the past 20 months, this partnership has seen several Hospital Corpsmen (HMs) from the hospital embark on missions with the US Coast Guard, enhancing the medical expertise available aboard. However, HSs remain the gold standard and, in many cases, are more experienced with additional training than their US Navy counterparts. 

Zea’s story is more than a tale of medical interventions; it’s about the profound trust and reassurance he brings to the crews. Always willing to pitch in, he handled lines, stood watch, competed in Super Smash Bros. tourneys, and provided consistent care. Knowing they have a like-minded professional like Zea aboard, ready to tackle medical emergencies, the crew can confidently concentrate on their vital missions. Serving the people of the Blue Pacific also provides exposure to new cultural experiences. 

“Visiting places like the Republic of Palau, Papua New Guinea, and Australia has been an eye-opening experience. Celebrating Papua New Guinea’s Independence Day was a deep cultural immersion and learning moment. Each of these places has its unique charm and challenges, and being able to provide medical support here has enriched my understanding of diverse healthcare needs. It’s a reminder of how interconnected we are and the Coast Guard’s vital role in not just security but also in cultural and humanitarian exchanges,” said Zea. 

“HS1 Steven Zea and his peers in medical support are the unsung guardians of the US Coast Guard’s expeditionary teams. Their expertise, unwavering dedication, and adaptability are crucial not only in ensuring the health and safety of their comrades but also in upholding the operational integrity of the Service’s critical missions across the Pacific,” according to the USCG.

Source: Maui News

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