Nov. 11 is Veteran’s Day, and DEQ thanks and honors our many staff who served and are still serving Oregon and the U.S. Today we are spotlighting Paul Seidel, Northwest Region Cleanup Manager, who recently retired from the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve after 22 years of service.
As an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, Paul Seidel has played active roles responding to major events, from the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Seidel, DEQ’s Northwest Region Cleanup Manager, says his time in the service helps keep his day job in perspective.
“I think I’m the only person at DEQ who has ever called for air support on an oil slick,” he said with a chuckle during a recent interview. “We called for two C-130s loaded with oil dispersants, and they took care of it.”
Paul said he decided to join the reserve “kind of late in life” after hearing a recruitment ad on the radio while working in Seattle. (“Those ads sometimes work!”) His father, who passed away this year, was a Korean veteran, something that Paul had always admired. He wasn’t entirely satisfied with the job he had at the time, so he did a little research and headed over to visit with a Coast Guard recruiter.
“Three months later, I’m shipped off to boot camp in Cape May, New Jersey.” He recalls a late night bus ride to the base and the “quintessential experience” of off-loading with a bunch of other sleepy-eyed recruits while “the drill sergeant just lays into you. They start working you over then and there.”
His first activation was immediately after 9/11. There were concerns that the Northwest energy infrastructure (waterfront Oil terminals) might be subject to attack. Paul drove to various sites to check their security systems. “The patrols were shore side, not water side. We were in a minivan rather than small boats.”
Less than 1 percent of Americans have military service experience, Paul noted, adding that he gained a keen perspective on leadership during his time in the reserve. At one point during the Deepwater Horizon incident, he was handed the reins to the cleanup work on Grand Isle as the section planning chief.
President Obama visited the scene, as did U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who promptly requested that the incident command double the booms he had ordered around an island that was home to a heron rookery. Paul took care of her request.
“You never know when you’re going to be in a situation where no one more senior is around and you need to be in charge,” he said. “You never know when you are going to have to provide leadership.”
–Harry Esteve, communications manager