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Coast Guard's Mike Morefield makes the grade

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Mike Morefield has his new shoulder boards attached by his mother, Bertha, and father, Richard, during a promotion celebration recently at his parents’ East Albany home. (July 6, 2013)

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Mike Morefield has his new shoulder boards attached by his mother, Bertha, and father, Richard, during a promotion celebration recently at his parents’ East Albany home. (July 6, 2013)

ALBANY, Ga. -- In 1986, Mike Morefield was toiling at Coats and Clark. At 26, he was wondering where his life was headed.

He decided a change was in order, so he enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. As things turned out, it was a good decision.

Late last week, Morefield's proud parents, Bertha and Richard, celebrated Morefield's promotion to Lieutenant Commander during a shoulder board ceremony in their front yard in East Albany.

"When I first went in (to the Coast Guard) I was just going to do my four years than come back home and get a job at Miller (Brewery) or P&G and make more money," Morefield said. "But after spending three years in Alaska I realized that being in the Coast Guard gave me tremendous career satisfaction."

Morefield entered USCG boot camp at Cape May, N.J., as a 26-year-old seaman recruit. By military standards, he was old.

"I think being a 26-year-old boot was an advantage for me," Morefield said. "I was way older than the other guys and more mature. Some of those guys weren't quite ready for what they were getting into, but I was."

After graduation Morefield was assigned to computers and communications work. He also began his trek from being an enlisted man to an officer -- a 'mustang' in Coast Guard slang.

In 2001 he was promoted to chief petty officer, the next year he earned his bars as a chief warrant officer 2 and held that rank for four years before making lieutenant, and finally lieutenant commander last week.

"This promotion was different," Morefield recalled. "Once you reach a certain point they don't care about your back ground. And sometimes just being good isn't good enough."

Currently stationed at USCG Base Portsmouth, Va., Morefield's group is tasked with revamping the "May day" distress system used throughout the Coast Guard.

At 58, once again his age is an advantage in that he is more experienced than many of his fellow junior officers.

"Everybody is aware of the long path I took to get here today," Morefield said. "Part of my job is to mentor and help bring people up. We all appreciate having someone senior help put things into perspective."