As most all mariners, we all have stories to tell and you know the phrase, “this ain’t no s...t,” we all know that begins the lie. However, the following is the truth that honors those that came before us and taught us the things that have been embedded in our minds. All mariners have these stories that are marked down only in our memories. When these events would come to pass, I would look at my fellow crew and touch my finger to my tongue and mark the number one in the air, to represent one for the memory book.
One of my first encounters with a mentor came on my first trip. In deckhand school, I was taught the proper procedure for laying a fore and aft wire on timberheads. We were making up a tow of empties and the chain links were attached to the wire I was trying to lay on the timberheads. Each time I tried to lay the wire properly, which was too short, the end of the wire with the links attached would fall over the side of the barge. As I pulled the wire with links back up to the deck three times and it was getting the best of me, I decided to drop a head and it worked.
When I looked over at my mate, he was laughing and said, “you won’t make that mistake again will you”.
In another instant with an early mentor during my second trip, we were placing a barge in tow while moving, I did not get the side wire laid fast enough and the barge separated from the tow. The mate, Bugeye Bailey, got mad and threw his hat to the deck as he cursed at me.
I didn’t know what to do, so I went over and began stomping his hat on the deck. We became very good friends after that.
Since we didn’t have regular crews during my upbringing in the inland river industry, I had many mentors, but I have to say many of my mentors were the deckhands working under me as a mate. I learned as much from them as they learned from me. One of the first of my deckhands was Mike Langona, who taught me that a person could achieve much more in the corporate world within the industry.
He became the first official safety representative within our company. I eventually took his place a year later when he was promoted to our corporate training department.
Another person that was a great mentor for me was Gary Johnson who I hired in 2006 as a safety representative at AEP River Transportation. He was previously a city firefighter and had just returned from a stint in Iraq for the Air National Guard.
What I saw in Gary was sincere compassion for people and their safety. He taught me so much about sincerely caring for the lives and safety of our employees.
The next mentor I want to mention was Greg Walburn. He was one of my deckhands for a considerable period of time. I was color-blind and could never get my pilot’s license, but Greg went on to train and eventually got his pilot’s license.
By the time he got to the pilothouse, I was promoted to the safety department. Without a doubt, Greg and Rich Hyer operated the best boat in our fleet, the M/V Capt. John Reynolds. This was our showboat at that time.
Eventually, Greg Walburn became Port Captain at AEP River Transportation and my last boss upon my retirement after 44 years in the river industry.
Mentoring is a longstanding tradition of the river. Sharing your journey with a mentor may encourage others to follow your lead by walking in your footsteps or stepping up and becoming a mentor to another crew member wishing to advance. Please sn personal experiences of mentoring with RiverWorks Discovery, so that we may use them in our social media Mentor Monday posts.
**If you prefer, you may simply upload your Mentor story at the end of this submission form in lieu of completing all questions. Simply write n/a in all required text fields.**