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Sunday, February 5, 2023


Aug. 30, 2001 – The resident Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment's new supervisor has literally worked his way up to his present assignment at the world's No. 1 cruise ship destination — St. Thomas and St. John.
Lt. John V. Reinert began his three-year assignment on July 15, succeeding Lt. Kevin Smith. He says the unit's focus will continue to be "marine safety, including the inspection of commercial vessels and the investigation of marine casualties and environmental pollution."
Reinert points out that the local detachment is not directly tasked with the Coast Guard's "operational duties including drug interdiction, search and rescue and the boarding of vessels" at sea. "San Juan directs all those operations," he explains.
With one exception, the Coast Guard vessels occasionally seen operating in territorial waters or docked at King's Wharf are not St. Thomas-based, he says. The exception is the 32-foot Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel owned by local Auxiliary Operations Officer Klaus Willems. The auxiliary consists of individuals who volunteer their time to educate the public on safe boating practices and to perform free safety inspections of privately owned vessels. They also conduct local harbor patrols and assist with Coast Guard search and rescue operations when needed.
Five Coast Guard members are assigned to the St. Thomas-St. John detachment. Working with Reinert are Chief Warrant Officers Darel McCormick and Kevin Austin and Petty Officers 1st Class Scott Howell and Torin Zielenski. The detachment is housed in the small, single-story building located on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront between King's Wharf and the Legislature Building.
"My responsibility is St. Thomas and St. John and the territorial waters that surround them," Reinert says. "It's a challenging assignment with the limited number of people assigned here and the limited amount of resources. San Juan sends over additional inspectors as necessary to help us keep up with the operational tempo."
At the heart of his jurisdiction is the Charlotte Amalie harbor. "It's a very busy port," he says. "The biggest risks are the high-capacity vessels, the cruise ships and the ferries that can carry large numbers of passengers. We really have to watch those."
A native of Beatrice, Neb., Reinert enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1982. After graduating from boot camp, he was assigned to the Coast Guard cutter Point Herron at Fire Island, New York, N.Y., where he performed a variety of search-and-rescue and law-enforcement duties. He subsequently held staff positions at Commander/Atlantic Area, Commander Support Center/New York, and Commander/Maintenance and Logistics Command/Atlantic Area, all located on Governors Island in New York, N.Y.
He left the Coast Guard for about three year in 1986 and nearly finished college before returning to active duty. He then worked for two years at the Marine Safety Office in Morgan City, La., qualifying as a marine pollution investigator, marine facility inspector and federal on-scene coordinator representative. Meantime, he finished his bachelor of science degree in business finance at the State University of New York.
In 1994, after attending officer candidate school in Yorktown, Va., he received his commission as a Coast Guard officer. He spent the next four years as the assistant chief of port operations at the San Diego marine safety office. His projects there included coordinating waterside safety for the 1994 World Cup sailing races and security for the 1996 Republican National Convention. His response operations included a 97,000-gallon jet fuel spill into the San Diego River from a ruptured pipeline.
In 1998, he became the assistant chief of port operations at the Galveston, Tex., marine safety office. His duties included port safety and security and environmental response for the three major ports which make up the largest petrochemical complex in the world, 100 miles of intracoastal waterway and more than 160 oil and natural gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Reinert visited St. Thomas for the first time in May, to attend a four-day Caribbean Regional Response conference. "It's a very vertical island," was one of his first impressions. "Every other place I've ever been stationed has been relatively flat."
As the St. Thomas detachment supervisor, Reinert reports to the captain of the Port of San Juan, Cmdr. Joseph Servidio. "I worked with him before in San Diego," Reinert notes. "He's a great man to work for. I requested to leave Galveston a year early to take this position. I wouldn't have taken the job if it wasn't for him."
At his last two duty stations, Reinert volunteered to make educational presentations in the schools. The Sea Partners Program involves going into schools and appearing before civic groups to talk about "the effects of pollution on the ocean and sea life," he says. "It's one of those things that I truly love to do. We will do a program for anyone who will listen to us."
He has an open mind about his future with the Coast Guard but plans to go "for at least 20" years of active duty. "After that I don't know," he muses. "I'm having a great time. I enjoy my work. I enjoy the job I do. I enjoy the Coast Guard."
The Coast Guard appreciates him, too. He has received two Commandant Letters of Commendation and has been awarded two Coast Guard Achievement Medals and the Coast Guard Commendation Medal.
Reinert notes that while the Coast Guard is the smallest of the nation's armed services, with about 32,000 members, it often is the most visible. He says he wants to form a working partnership between his unit and the St. Thomas/St. John community. "Keeping the public informed on what we are doing here helps us out as much as it helps out the public," he says.

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