Active Duty Interview: Jasen Hollopeter

As time keeps going on and my project community continues to grow, my appreciation for those who serve deepens.  This interview marks #13 and I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to learn even more about the United States Coast Guard.  I sincerely hope each of you enjoys BMC Hollopeter’s story as much as I did!

2169-hollopeterChief Boatswain’s Mate Jasen Hollopeter

United States Coast Guard

With over 21 years of service and an overflowing handful of stories to tell, Jasen Hollopeter certainly has enough knowledge to go around. His story shows honor and dedication to service for our country.

Why did you decide to join the Coast Guard?

When I was in high school, all my friends knew what they wanted to do, they all had these plans. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do for a career. I knew I wanted to do something law enforcement wise. I ended up seeing a commercial for the Coast Guard and they stated they end up doing maritime law enforcement. Shortly after I contacted a recruiter.

Where have you been stationed?

Boot camp – Cape May New Jersey

Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw in Cheboygan, Michigan

Station Brant Point in Nantucket Massachusetts

Coast Guard Cutter Barracuda Ketchikan, Alaska

Instructor for two years in Alameda, California

Eureka, California

Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York City, NY

Station Washington, Washington D.C.

Recruiting Office in Las Vegas

Present day- Recruiting Office in Denver

How do you feel while you are in the military? (Successful, lonely, etc…)

Throughout the process, I felt successful. In the end, I don’t want to change any of it, good or bad. It’s all about what you make it.  I’ve enjoyed moving around and so has my family. It was good for my wife as well because she was able to meet folks who were in the same situation. Overall it’s been successful, the Coast Guard has been good to me.

What has it been like while you’ve been serving? (Rough, thrilling, etc…)

It can be a little bit of both.  You get to save people, which is really good. That’s one of our biggest missions, search and rescue. When you get a chance to help somebody and get them home to their family, that’s really rewarding. Keeping people safe out on the waterways. To me, those are the biggest rewards.

As far as challenges, it can be a little hard to move your family around every so often.  Especially if you’re moving across the country. That can be a little rough on your family. It’s all what you make it. If you think you’re going to be miserable stationed somewhere then you’ll be miserable, but if you accept and embrace it then it really isn’t that bad.

What was training like for you?

Basic training was tough.  I was an 18-year-old kid from Pueblo, CO who had no idea what boot camp was.  Getting yelled at constantly is a little culture shock at first, and then probably halfway through it, I kind of got into a routine. I developed friendships with everyone else in my company, which helped with getting through the process.  So at first boot camp was tough but after awhile I got used to it.

You enlisted, what was your experience like with that process?

I enlisted out of the Denver office. It was a little challenging having to drive up from Pueblo every so often. Most of my interactions with my recruiter were over the phone. It was pretty straightforward. My recruiter talked me through everything.  I had to take the ASVAB. Then I had to do the physical part of it, which was a little challenging mainly because I had medical issues from playing football in high school. So that kind of delayed the process a little bit. Overall it was a really good experience for me.

What is your job in the Coast Guard?

Before I became a recruiter, I was a Boatswain’s Mate.

Do you feel like you’ve built good friendships while serving?

Absolutely! That’s the great thing about the Coast Guard is we’re so small that you know everybody and there’s barely any degrees of separation between everyone.  The friendships I’ve developed I’ll have forever. Even though we’re apart we have no problem calling one another to catch up.

What does your family think of you being in the military?

My parents were very supportive when I decided to join. They helped me do whatever I needed to in order to enlist.  My wife and kids absolutely loved it. They liked seeing different places and being able to see the country.  Now that my kids are older, they’re not so keen on moving around so much. Overall everyone was very supportive.

Were there any moments you’ve been afraid?

Yea. I was on my ship in Alaska and we were called to help out some fishermen.  The weather was really bad.  The fishing boat ended up taking the waves so hard that it ended up knocking out one of the windows. So every time a wave came they would take on more water.  I had to put some of our guys on the boat to help fix it just to prevent the water from going in it.  Then we had to take the boat into a tow.

I was in a smaller boat compared to the fishing boat.  I ended up tying a line to my boat and the ship was supposed to keep giving me the line.  The ship stopped and started dragging my crewmen and me sideways.  I was on my side being drug through the ocean. I thought we were going to flip over.  One of my crewmen ended up cutting the line off just at the last moment.

Do you feel like your career in the military is a successful and fulfilling one?

Absolutely! If you can retire from it, that’s pretty successful in itself.

Any stories you’d like to share?

There was another one in Alaska.  There’s a ton of these little islands and this hunter went out by himself.  He was gone for over 24 hours and didn’t come home.  We were called out to go searching for him. It was so foggy out that I couldn’t even see the front of the ship. We were searching around and one of the other guys ended up seeing a strobe light. I don’t know how he saw it, but it’s a good thing he did. It ended up being the hunter. So I got my smaller boat and rode out to go get him. He was hypothermic, but he was okay. We got him on board the ship and cared for him. We got him back to where he lived safely. His mother and his wife were waiting on the pier.  Just seeing the look on their faces of relief and being able to get him back to his family was one of the best days I’ve ever had.

What do you see yourself doing after the military?

I want to keep doing some type of law enforcement. In about a month I’ll have my Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice. I don’t necessarily want to be a police officer, though. I would like to stay within the Department of Homeland Security.

The final two questions below gives the interviewee the opportunity to share their voice in the issue “Connecting & Protecting” is addressing.

Do you feel like there is a disconnection between the military and the general public?

Overall no. I think a lot of people kind of have an idea of what the military is and all. I think those who might be disconnected aren’t as informed as they could be. Some people think that “Oh, you just go overseas and fight a war that someone else tells you to fight.” There’s a lot more to it than that. But I think for the most part the public has this idea of the military where someone wanting to serve their country and protect the homeland.  I don’t really think there’s too much of a disconnect between society and the military.

Do you have any ideas on how this issue could be resolved?

For those who are misinformed go talk to somebody and do research. If you see someone in uniform go up and talk to them. I know it might be difficult to not be intimidated, but still, go talk to them. Get their take on it all. I think your project will probably help that. You’re getting information and talking to different people from different branches and getting their experiences.  You can’t just go to Wikipedia and look up everything you have to actually talk to people and get their experiences.


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