90 miles to Cuba: a tidbit used to lure and excite tourists and a vast body of water swimming with activity. From immigration to drug smuggling, to locals and tourists disobeying basic boating safety regulations; the Key West Coast Guard Sector isn’t sitting idle waiting for action. They secure a 55,000 square foot mile radius extending from the western side of the Dry Tortugas to the Western side of Everglade City, covering all of the Florida Keys. Just over one month ago, a new man was put at the helm of the sector. The Weekly Newspapers was escorted onto the base this week to gather more insight about Captain Pat DeQuattro. One of the men we salute this glorious 4th of July, for protecting our freedoms.
Dressed in a Tropical Blue Long Uniform adorned with ribbons, the demeanor and the spit shine on his leather shoes, convey clearly to all who encounter him, Captain Pat DeQuattro is a man who does not have difficulty garnering respect and trust.
“He’s approachable,” remarks LTJG Matthew Meinhold. “He’s gives insight and I find myself looking up to him and looking for advice.”
LTJG Meinhold is one of over 700 active Coast Guard members under Captain DeQuattro’s command. He also keeps a watchful eye on five patrol boats, nine crews and three Coast Guard Stations. The other two located in Marathon and Islamorada.
The middle child, hailing from West Brookfield, Massachusetts, acknowledges the adventure, challenge and travels the U.S. Coast Guard offers were wildly appealing to him as a youngster growing up on 350 farm acres.
“Literally, there was and is only one traffic light in Brookfield,” Captain DeQuattro says with an obvious fondness of his hometown. “We have a gas station and one pizza parlor. The McDonald’s … you have to travel two towns over. Yes, the roads are paved,” he laughs. “Needless to say I found the water very attractive.”
His formative years in small town Massachusetts coincided with the Reagan Administration. The Cold War and the war on drugs took the national stage.
“This was the mid-80s. I followed the missions of the military and chose to enter the Coast Guard Academy,” Captain DeQuattro says about his post-high school decision.
The adventure he craved has since never ceased.
He recounts one from his mid 20’s. “I was assigned to a patrol boat in the Gulf of Mexico. There was a mayday to rescue a man who had tried to outrun a storm in his sailboat. There were 25-foot seas. When the adrenaline wore off I realized I was right at my limits, the ship’s limits and those the crew could perform.”
But, because of the Coast Guard’s relentless training, the men and women do not rely on initial responses civilians would exercise.
“We’re rendering assistance to someone else, and we are trained specifically on what to do,” Captain DeQuattro reiterates.
At his new post, guarding the Southern Straits of Florida, Captain DeQuattro is diligent to instill in his men and women: always expect the unexpected.
“Any time we are heading out in a cutter, or larger ship, I remind them they most likely will see something unanticipated,” Captain DeQuattro explains. “Responding to a search and rescue may turn into a pollution case. What appears to be a drug case may turn into a poaching case; which is another job of ours, to protect our natural resources.”
This 4th of July, Captain DeQuattro does believe progress continues to be made in national security. The Reagan Administration and Cold War are decades behind us. But the ideals his parents taught him, to have a strong sense of patriotism, and demonstrate respect for those who serve in the service remain as illustrious as the fireworks, ablaze in our island skies.
There is a respect for the rank taught at boot camp, the respect Captain DeQuattro has amassed in just one month is worth noting.
Again, LTJG Menihold, “He makes it easy to build trust and build respect throughout the sector.”
Captain DeQuattro is on duty 24/7, but when he has some downtime, he is often with his wife, Cheri, on their bicycles, navigating and surveying the island.
Captain Pat DeQuattro
A Decorated Man
3x Coast Guard Meritorious Service Medal
3x Coast Guard Achievement Medal
2x Coast Guard Commendation Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal
U.S. Department of Transportation’s 9/11 Medal
Joint Service Achievement Medal
Commandment’s Letter of Commendation