Valmeyer native is Coast Guard commander - Republic-Times | News

Valmeyer native is Coast Guard commander

By on November 14, 2012 at 9:52 am

U.S. Coast Guard Commander Tom Engbring

Tom Engbring, formerly of Valmeyer, was appointed to the grade of Commander in the United States Coast Guard effective Nov. 1.

Commander Engbring, a 1978 graduate of Valmeyer High School and the son of Jerry and Lucy Engbring, is currently assigned to the USCG Headquarters Office of Aeronautical Engineering in Washington, D.C., where he oversees integration and modernization of communications, sensor, and intelligence gathering equipment and systems aboard a fleet of nearly 200 fixed and rotary wing aircraft.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity, Engbring said. “I don’t run out to airplanes and navigate 10-hour rescue missions anymore, but I still enjoy tackling very technically oriented tasks in a professional aviation environment.”

The commander said his office is a close-knit group focused on safely, effectively, and efficiently performing missions in the air.

“It’s good to know that today one of our aircraft made a difference enforcing homeland security, protecting the environment, securing ports and waterways, and perhaps even saving a life,” he said. “Like real life, there will be more challenges tomorrow. Semper Paratus, Always, Ready.”

Lucy Engbring said her son always liked “anything connected with aviation” and he certainly has enjoyed his many years with the Coasties.

“Tom flies his own private plane, a Cessna 172, and weather permitting, he plans to fly home on Thanksgiving for a family reunion,” she said.

Tom Engbring joined the Coast Guard fresh out of high South America. This was followed with Aviation Electronic Tech School in Elizabeth City, N.C.

In the early 1980’s, he was stationed at Barber’s Point, Hawaii, and flew all over the South Pacific as a C-130 navigator on search-and-rescue and logistics missions.

Some of the places Tom has flown to include Samoa, Fiji, Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, the Midway Islands, Wake Island, Kwajalein, and the Eniwetok and Bikini Atolls, where the first U.S. atom bomb was tested.

During one search-and-rescue mission, the Coast Guard was called to pick up a man whose ear had been bitten off by a dog. When their plane arrived, they couldn’t land because the runway was covered with birds. They did the next best thing — drop a medical kit with antibiotics and instructions.

On another one of Tom’s missions, a rescue in the Atlantic took them as far as Africa’s Cape Verde Islands, where a storm had disabled a sailboat. The man aboard called for help. Luckily, the Coast Guard found him, and radioed another ship to change course and rescue him.

On yet another mission, the Coasties rescued a man with acute appendicitis from aboard another ship. These missions were just the tip of the iceberg, and are considered fairly common among rescuers.

Tom spent more than five years in Clearwater, Fla., flying with Joint Nato Exercises out of Scotland to Sweden, Norway, and Iceland.
Lucy said they had a hard time keeping track of him during those years of travel.

Tom then took some time out of the service to attend Parks College, but then returned to his first love — flying with the Coasties.
He served in Elizabeth City for more than 21 years, working his way up the ranks at the Aviation Logistics Center until reaching the rank of commander.

“In the middle of all this, he attended college and earned a degree in business, and also became a private pilot, bought a Cessna 172, and now as a new Commander will be working in Washington, D.C.,” Lucy Engbring said of her son.

Tom has two other brothers who also are pilots. His father flew F4Fs off aircraft carriers during World War II, and his sons learned their love of flying from him.

Tom and his wife, Katherine, did not want to sell or rent their house on Albermarle Sound, so he asked his sister, Susie, who lives in San Diego, if she would  “house-sit” for two years.

Regarding her son’s impressive Coast Guard career, Lucy says even she is surprised at the unbelievable experiences and all the travel Tom has done.

“We are extremely proud of his accomplishments,” she said.


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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.