A Michigan-based Coast Guardsman stationed aboard Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, a 240-foot ice-breaking buoy tender homeported in Cheboygan, Mich., was named the 2013 Coast Guard 9th District Enlisted Person of the Year, in an internal Coast Guard announcement Wednesday.
Petty Officer 1st Class Zachary Rafoth will be formally recognized at his unit at a later date by a member of the 9th District’s senior staff, and he will now compete against other Enlisted Persons of the Year from eight other Coast Guard districts to be named the Coast Guard’s Enlisted Person of the Year.
Rafoth, a damage controlman, distinguished himself through his professional skill and leadership and is a superb team leader. He developed innovative training solutions that promoted qualifications covering engineering, deck and general shipboard missions onboard the cutter. These innovations directly contributed to the execution of the multiple missions of the Mackinaw’s crew. His dedication to his craft and crew was an integral part of the Mackinaw crew being recognized with the Rear Adm. R.S. Lucas Plaque Award (Afloat) for outstanding contribution to Naval Engineering Program.
"Rafoth is a great shipmate, and he demonstrates that by always putting others above himself, displaying the best qualities of a servant leader," said Lt. Cmdr. Eric Peace, executive officer of the Mackinaw. "He regularly volunteers his off-duty time to assist his shipmates in earning various certifications and qualifications."
"He is a great person to work for and work with," said Petty Officer 1st Class Jake Farone, a fellow damage controlman and Mackinaw shipmate. "He really looks out for his peers and subordinates and is extremely knowledgeable about the damage controlman rating."
“This is a very special unit with distinct and diverse missions," said Rafoth. "And, because we are so diverse, it allows so many opportunities for me to excel and help my shipmates out. The ice season really allows me to focus on helping out my fellow crew accomplish more personal goals and activities.
“I really like the small-town atmosphere here in Cheboygan. The community has a great deal of pride having us being homeported here. So, it's very rewarding to be able to give back to such a great community.”
Rafoth has also served as the Mackinaw’s command drug and alcohol representative, in which he established a shipmate program to protect members from alcohol abuse and regularly came up with positive alternative activities to help shipmates keep busy during the long winter months.
Despite a demanding operations and duty schedule, Rafoth was an active volunteer in his community with Habitat for Humanity, Boy Scouts of America, and coordinates motorcycle safety courses for Coast Guard members and dependents.
Stretching from northern New York state to northern Minnesota, the Coast Guard 9th District encompasses the five Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and parts of the surrounding states, including 6,700 miles of shoreline and 1,500 miles of shared international border with Canada. Out of about 1,700 members in the district who are in the eligible enlisted rates, only one person is chosen as the active-duty EPOY of the Great Lakes.