In mid-July, Coast Guard Station Marathon received a new chief. Master Chief Timaree Sparks (pronounced Tim-ah-ree), took the helm of the Middle Keys facility. She is a 25-year veteran of the Coast Guard and has two daughters — Sadie, 9, and Teagan, 8. This is her fourth command; the most recent was in Ocean City, Md. She’s also served aboard Coast Guard boats, earning the designation of executive petty officer.
A native of the land-locked Barre, Mass., Sparks said joining the Coast Guard was something like a complete accident. She and a sister were in Boston to see a Red Sox game and didn’t want to “return home empty-handed.” They stopped by the Army’s recruiting office but were waylaid by the Coast Guard representative. She enlisted, and kept the fact a secret from her family almost until she shipped out for basic training.
Apparently, it was a good fit. Her personal awards include five Coast Guard Commendation Medals, one Army Commendation Medal, three Achievement Medals, one Commandant Letter of Commendation Ribbon, eight Good Conduct Medals, and numerous service and unit awards.
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Does the Coast Guard recruiting office give out free T-shirts? Yes they do! However, I didn’t get one when I enlisted into the Coast Guard back in 1993. I did, however, get a full seabag full of uniforms when I reported to basic training in Cape May, N.J. on Sept.14, 1993.
What does the “BMCM” before your name stand for? Master Chief Boatswains Mate This is the highest enlisted rank one can get promoted to with the exception of the one billet available as the sole E-10.
Besides a couple of stations, you’ve also been executive petty officer of some Coast Guard boats as well. Which ones? How big? The largest cutter I served on was 180-foot buoy tender. The ones that I was the captain’s right-hand person were only 87 feet long. I served on the CGC Pea Island, a 110-foot patrol boat based out of St. Petersburg, Florida; the CGC Mako, out of Cape May, N.J.; the CGC Hammerhead, out of Woods Hole, Mass.; and the CGC Beluga, out of Virginia Beach, Va.
You’re more of an operations manager than an executive officer, is that correct? My entire career has been assigned to operational units that perform all operational missions the Coast Guard is responsible for. For the last 11 years I have had the privilege to be the Officer in Charge of the unit.
The mission of the Coast Guard as a whole is vast, but changes from locale to locale. What is the mission of the Coast Guard Station in Marathon? Station Marathon is a designated “Pursuit Station.” The pursuit mission requires expert boat handling tactics and techniques which require a high level of skill to execute safely. These include maneuvering at high speeds while maintaining complete control of the vessel you are piloting.
Is this a “plum” assignment? Yes, Marathon is considered paradise! I am very fortunate to have been assigned here and often wonder what I did to deserve such a fantastic duty station assignment.
What do you think the challenges will be? Personally the challenge that I find most difficult is adapting to the Keys’ laidback lifestyle. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t know how to relax!
What do you think will be the most rewarding? This is my last assignment in the Coast Guard. I am planning to make the most of my time here in Marathon by taking the time to mold my replacement. I am the only sitting female Master Chief in charge of a Coast Guard unit.
What is the scariest situation you’ve ever been in while on the water? I was onboard the CGC Mako out of Cape May, N.J. and we were tasked to head offshore to the Canyons to assist a disabled fishing vessel. It was the month of February in the Mid-Atlantic, so the weather obviously was forecasted to get pretty nautical while we were heading out. After arriving on scene, we determined that we would not be able to safely take the vessel in tow due to the on-scene weather conditions. I may be underestimating but the sea state was over 18 feet. The waves were clearly over the height of the pilot house and the temperature was falling rapidly. We did all we could to maintain station near the fishing vessel but over time we started to develop severe ice buildup on the cabin. Our rolls started to get slower and the darkness of the night seemed to last forever … I felt as if we were not going to make it back to the dock; we all feared that we may capsize. But, we made it back to the dock — limping — with some bent stanchions, snapped radio antennas and a dent on the cabin top due to the impacts of the waves we were taking over the bow.
What is your proudest achievement? My kids — their smiles and the way they look up to me make me very proud.
Which TV or movie character is your alter ego? Blossom from the “Power Puff Girls.”
What would your superpower be? The ability to stop time. I would love to stop the clock and just catch up!
Best piece of advice you ever received? Maintain your standard and allow everyone to rise to the level you maintain.
What is your nerdiest passion? I am not a nerd.
If you could take one item on a deserted island, what? Why? My kids. Yes, I have two but I would want them to be with me everywhere I go so they can experience the same things I get to.
Favorite guilty pleasure? Chocolate … I absolutely love chocolate
If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do/buy? I would hire a lawyer.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I haven’t grown up yet, I just get to wear my disguise while I figure out what I want to be.
Finish these sentences …
My favorite thing to do with my kids is … ride the bikes and go to the beach.
Marathon is … my home for the next four years.
When I retire, I will … learn how to relax.