I know I haven’t been posting many interviews recently, but when I do I always meet the most extraordinary types of people. Their stories inspire me to keep going and to never give up hope. When I interviewed BM1 Bostwick, I felt closer to the military even more. It was an honor to learn her story and I hope the rest of you will be inspired by her.
Boatswain’s Mate First Class Laura Bostwick
United States Coast Guard
With fourteen years of dedicated service to her country, BM1 Laura Bostwick definitely has had a worthwhile career. Her story is unique and fun with many experiences to share.
Why did you decide to join the Coast Guard?
I didn’t feel like I had a whole lot of opportunities for myself in Montana. I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to do in life. So, when I saw the opportunity the Coast Guard was offering I figured it would be the best fit for me.
Where have you been stationed?
Boot Camp – Cape May, NJ
Small Boat Station – Cape May, NJ
Small Boat Station – New Orleans, LA
Coast Guard Cutter Saginaw – Mobile, Alabama
Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe – California
I was the Executive Petty Officer at Small Boat Station/Aids to Navigation Team – Burlington, Vermont
Recruiting – Westminster, Colorado
What will be your next station after here?
I’m hoping to get selected for the Coast Guard’s physician’s assistant program which would send me to school in Texas
How do you feel while you are in the military? (Successful, lonely, etc…)
I felt pretty content. Everything that I have done has been, for the most part, fun and rewarding. My job has been mostly search and rescue missions, which is fun, exciting, and thankfully positive outcomes. So, my career has been mostly successful.
What has it been like while you’ve been serving? (Rough, thrilling, etc…)
There are times when it gets stressful and exhausting, but I think that’s kind of how it is with any job. I’ve been lucky enough to have a fun experience even though I was tired or stressed. I get to drive boats for a living, which to me isn’t like a normal job for most people. So if I was having a bad day or didn’t feel like being in the office, I didn’t have to be. I could go out and do training or do something out on the water. It’s a really easy way to turn your day around. I have really enjoyed all of it.
What was training like for you?
Boot camp for me was quick. It was much faster for me than I thought. Yes, it was difficult initially because you’re not what the whole military world is, how you’re supposed to be answering questions, and they tell you how you’re supposed to, but your brain’s not working correctly so you can’t do it the way they want you to and you get in trouble. Eventually you figure it out and it flies by really fast. It was the most exhausting experience I’ve had in my life. It was definitely an experience that not that many people would go through.
I didn’t go to a school, I STRUCK which is a type of on the job training to become a Boatswains Mate. They did send me to a piloting and navigating school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for three weeks, which was a new program they were trying out. It didn’t last very long, but it was a lot of fun. It was in the Merchant Marine Academy. So, I got to train on a lot of the equipment that the Merchant Mariners get to use and it’s really nice equipment. I learned quite a lot about piloting a navigation, which I wouldn’t have learned quite as much if I would’ve just stayed at my unit and done it.
You enlisted, what was your experience like with that process?
It was pretty quick. I, unfortunately, didn’t really understand what I was doing throughout the process. It really wasn’t explained to me. Thankfully my brother was going through it at the same time and he understood it better and made sure to explain it to me. He made sure to explain it to me. I did choose to enlist for six years instead of four because I had the intention to make it a 20-year career from the beginning even though I didn’t necessarily know what I was getting myself into. It was a pretty painless process. I just signed the paperwork, took the tests, and got into MEPS to make sure I was qualified.
I tried to be physically prepared for by running, doing push-ups, and sit-ups. I was not very good at push-ups, so I worked on those quite a bit before I went to boot camp. I think that little preparation did help because I don’t think I would’ve passed everything on the first try without it.
What is your job in the Coast Guard?
Boatswain’s Mates drive the boats and many other things that include law enforcement, aids to navigation, ice rescue. We’re involved in pretty much every mission the Coast Guard has.
Do you feel like you’ve built good friendships while serving?
I have! I joined at a time when there weren’t as many women in the position that I’m in at the time. So, I feel like I missed out on having as many friendships with women and I feel like it’s kind of a necessary support system to have in the Coast Guard or in any military branch. However, I have been very fortunate with the few wonderful women and men I’ve been stationed with who aren’t afraid to be friends with a woman. So, I’ve been very lucky with the friendships I’ve had for the past 14 years. It’s a good idea to keep those connections that you make so that you have people who understand what you’re going through in any situation.
What does your family think of you being in the military?
They think it’s pretty cool! My mother is very proud and wears her sweatshirts and my dad always wants the hat so that he can advertise that I’m in the Coast Guard. My children think it’s cool just because I drive boats and they were very disappointed that we’re now at a unit where they can’t come to play on the boats every once in a while. But, at the same time, it is very difficult for them because they get moved around quite a bit. They like the traveling and they like seeing new places, but they don’t like leaving their friends behind which is completely understandable. They have mixed feelings when it comes to that part of my job. If they could stay in one place forever they would really like the job that I have.
Were there any moments you’ve been afraid?
I would say I was afraid, but every time I’m doing something I get a little nervous. It’s because you want to make sure you’re getting to wherever you need to be to rescue whoever you’re supposed to be helping. You’re also nervous to make sure that your crew is ready for the mission. I have a lot of respect for water because it’s a much bigger force than me or the boat that I’m on. So whenever I was getting ready to go under way I always had a little bit of nervousness or just a little bit of trepidation to make sure that the boat is running, the sea state isn’t going to turn, or the weather isn’t going to get really bad.
The only time that I was really scared was when I was on the 41-foot boat and we got into a situation with a 65-foot head boat where I thought things were going to end well, but thankfully they did and nobody was injured. That was the first time I was very fearful when I thought something was going to end up happening.
Then the other time was jumping through the ice. Your whole life you’re told not to walk on ice or jump on the ice, but when you’re doing ice rescue the first thing you need to do a self-rescue and when you’re doing that you have to jump through the ice. After the first initial jump in training, it becomes a lot of fun.
Do you feel like your career in the military is a successful and fulfilling one?
Absolutely! I plan on going the full 20 years.
Any stories you’d like to share?
There was a time at my last unit where we had three people in the water because they got underway for a fishing tournament and their boat was too small for the sea state at the time so the ocean just swamped their boat quickly. There was a little six-year-old, 19-year-old which was his uncle, and his father. When we got on scene the boat was completely submerged in water, but they were still in it. I was on the bow of the boat trying to get the six-year-old and the 19-year-old uncle was freaking out so much that he jumped up on the bow before I could even get the six-year-old. The little six-year-old just sat there cold and shaking patiently. I remember thinking this is not how I thought this was going to go. I thought I was going to get the child first before the adults. But the little six-year-old was just sitting there as brave as can be. He had complete trust in his father and that we were going to help him. They were all absolutely fine when we got back to the unit and they didn’t need medical attention. It was one of those positive outcomes that could have ended not as well as it did.
What do you see yourself doing after the military?
That is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. I really have no idea. I kind of know where I’d like to be, but I don’t know what I’d like to do. I’m hoping to put myself in a position where I can completely retire or work as a physician’s assistant which is a program I’m trying to get into through the Coast Guard. I’d like to be in Washington.
The final two questions below give 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?
I do! I feel like the military people see in movies gives them a slight idea of what the military is in general. With the Coast Guard being as small as it is, I don’t think the general public has any idea what we do unless you’ve lived on the coast. So they can’t really correlate anything with the Coast Guard specifically. A lot of times when I tell people I’m in the Coast Guard they think National Guard. Then I have to explain what the Coast Guard is and what we do but it still doesn’t connect. So the Coast Guard being as small as it is we are not really able to advertise as much so our missions are one of our biggest advertisements. It is how we’re seen.
Do you have any ideas on how this issue could be resolved?
The military, in general, need to put our personal experiences into things. So whenever we’re meeting with people, schools, events, etc. I think the personal experiences make a lot more sense than trying to explain what our job is to people. If you could tell a story and get people to see it from your viewpoint, I think that would follow through or crossover and make a lot more sense and get people interested. I think also getting ourselves out there more, wearing the uniform, and telling the stories that we have would help a lot. Especially a lot more positive stories since the negative ones are shared so much and most of the time it’s not the negative view. I also think what you’re doing is pretty awesome and it does help. If it could get even further out of the Colorado area and reach more people that would be cool as well.