by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nate Littlejohn
“Have you seen Shuey?” “Somebody call Shuey.” “Better check with Shuey!” An hour in the downtown Portsmouth, Virginia, Federal Building rarely passes without someone seeking him out. As scores of Coast Guard leaders in the office building plan and prepare their people for missions in the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond, the toils of Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class William Shuey Jr., is like a network of welds running through their ship, holding everything together.
“Petty Officer Shuey is an unsung hero,” said Capt. Gregory Sanial, chief of staff, 5th Coast Guard District. “Without his positive attitude and technical expertise, our network of phones and computers would come to a grinding halt.”
Shuey recently upgraded a bulk of the building’s computers, increasing speed and efficiency and ensuring Windows 10 compliancy. His most recent mission to Washington, D.C., supported the Coast Guard’s role in protecting the capital January 13-20, during the presidential inauguration. As the Coast Guard’s assistant communications leader during the inauguration, he kept the seagoing service in direct contact with the plethora of federal, state and local agencies throughout the event. He ensured radios were loaded with the correct software in order to function properly. His radio expertise kept Coast Guard helicopter and boat crews in touch with emergency response and security agencies in the air, on the ground and on the water. He traveled site to site before, during, and after inauguration day, to troubleshoot and resolve the technical troubles that arose within the complex web of radio communication.
“The success of the mission on the water relied on the patrol commander’s ability to communicate with vessels spanning 17 nautical miles with more than ten agencies on a single secure frequency,” said Lt. Brian Miller, commanding officer, Station Washington, D.C. “While Shuey was here during the inauguration he not only kept the communications for the operation up and running, but he also took a look at our existing infrastructure and is scheduled to return in a few weeks to look at upgrading our existing communications network. With his help, we hope to improve our communications with all of our National Capital Region partners year round.”
Agencies typically use different types of radios that require different software. Getting Coast Guard radios to talk and listen to radios of multiple agencies is an elaborate affair, but Shuey isn’t new to the endeavor. During Pope Francis’s visit to Philadelphia in September 2015, he kept the Coast Guard on stable and interoperable frequencies with the U.S. Secret Service, FBI, and the Pennsylvania National Guard, among others.
As the son and grandson of former Coast Guardsmen, Shuey’s interest in serving began as a small child.
His father, William Shuey Sr., initially served as a Coast Guardsman in the Vietnam War aboard Coast Guard Cutter Ingham, before becoming a storekeeper, specializing in Coast Guard finances and logistics. He was honorably discharged and went to work in the private sector as an accountant.
Shuey Jr.’s grandfather, Herb Shuey, was a radioman in the Coast Guard and served for 27 years before retiring as a Chief Warrant Officer in command of Coast Guard Radio Station Chicago.
Growing up in Danville, Illinois, Shuey followed more in his grandfather’s footsteps than his father’s.
“My grandfather got me interested in radios and doing this type of work in the Coast Guard,” said Shuey. “When Radio Station Chicago closed down for good, my grandfather still had access to a lot of the old defunct gear, no longer being used. As a child, I got to play with this radio equipment and my grandfather taught me not only how to use it, but how to modify it so it could continue to be used. My grandfather helped to pioneer Coast Guard communications. Coast Guard communicators were so exceptional that during World War II, the Navy used Coast Guard communicators, placing them in Greenland and Venezuela, to intercept enemy messages. High frequency radio was used for long-range communication before satellite communication was available.”
Shuey’s passion for radios extends into his personal life. A dedicated ham radio enthusiast, he’s currently studying for his license as an amateur extra class radio operator, reading up on electronic theory, radio propagation theory and the legal aspects of amateur radio communication.
“I encourage everyone to explore ham radio,” said Shuey. “After the tsunamis struck Japan in March 2011, nobody impacted by the disasters was able to communicate using traditional means. Cell phone towers were wiped out. Landline connections went dead. Japanese amateur radio operators were the critical communication link both within the country and to the outside world.”
Shuey’s favorite ham radio activity involves what is known to hams as chasing the DX – the hobby of making two-way radio contact with distant stations.
“I have a 32-foot vertical antenna in my backyard, and my goal is to talk to as many people outside the U.S. as I can using ham radio,” said Shuey. “I’ve talked to people in Ireland, Kuwait, Japan and Australia, among other places.”
Shuey’s amateur radio expertise helped him solve a problem that impacted the entire Coast Guard. He recognized an inadequate antenna was being used at an incident command post, resulting in poor radio communications. He conducted research and tested alternatives, noting the antenna was in need of a ground plane to direct radio waves properly. His solution was shared Coast Guard-wide.
A former telecommunications specialist, Shuey became an operations specialist when the Coast Guard changed its occupational specialties and titles in 2003. He’s currently a member of the Coast Guard 5th District’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Information Technology Division (C4IT).
“I love communication technology and I love the Coast Guard,” said Shuey. “Anyone interested in doing what I currently do in this service should become an information technician or an electronics technician. I don’t recommend becoming an operations specialist if you want to do the work I’m currently doing.”
Shuey said the Coast Guard offers opportunities for almost anyone willing to learn, regardless of their career interests.
“My grandfather told me a long time ago, if you want to join a military service, you can choose one that might have you take lives for your country, or you can choose the one that helps save them. I chose the service where we are most often lucky enough to be able to help save lives, and I’ve had fun doing so.”
Though his technical expertise qualifies him to face the wide array of issues he’s asked to tackle on a daily basis, Shuey’s enthusiasm for the job and his passion for helping people is likely why others continue to seek him out.
“He’s independent, self-motivated, responsible and genuinely enjoys his job,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Matthew Doscher, Shuey’s supervisor. “His positive and encouraging attitude partnered with his in-depth technical expertise result in the high demand for his contributions in the Coast Guard.”
Though he’s eager to assist, anyone looking for Shuey best get in line.