'Old Broke Down Detective' Trades Gun for New Life as Hot-shot Recruiter
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 20, 2000 This year's Coast Guard Reserve Recruiter of the Year calls himself "an old broke down police detective" who attributes his success to his belief in the Coast Guard and "giving people quality service."
Chief Petty Officer Gregory J. Satchwell, 51, is also a hero to his fellow Coast Guardsmen. The retired New York City police detective received the service's Operational Distinguishing Device in 1993 for his role in saving a 31-foot sailboat from being driven aground during a storm near Freeport, N.Y. His seamanship, courage and leadership were credited with saving the ship and the two adults and three children who were aboard.
"I'm not dealing with guns anymore. I'm dealing with quality people," said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Gregory J. Satchwell, the service's Reserve Recruiter of the Year. With him at the Pentagon in June is his wife, Gail. Photo by Rudi Williams.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
In 1999, he received a commendation for outstanding recruiting and was named the Coast Guard Reserve Recruiter of the Year. "If someone calls, you call him or her back. If someone can't get to you, you go to them," said Satchwell, who recruits in and around Tampa, Fla.
Satchwell recruits for a special Coast Guard program called "RX," wherein enlistees become "direct petty officers." He himself used the program when he joined the Coast Guard Reserve in 1987.
"It's kind of an unusual program. We'll bring police officers in based on their life experiences. We'll also bring in people who have merchant mariners licenses," Satchwell said. "So we're bring in people who have high skill levels as petty officers."
Satchwell qualified for the program with his 26 years of police experience. His part-time work as a commercial fisherman and his captain's license led to his becoming a boatswain's mate.
"I worked as a commercial fisherman to make ends meet when I was a policeman," said Satchwell, the 1993 Navy league Moriches Man of the Year and Navy League Tampa Bay Coast Guard Recruiter of the Year. His introduction to the service was in the late 1970s, when Coast Guardsmen rescued him and his father after the engine blew on their 21-foot fishing boat and left them stranded.
"I still remember seeing that cutter coming toward me with blue lights flashing," he said. "I thought they were headed for someone else until I heard, 'Will the captain of the distressed vessel identify himself?' My dad pointed at me, making me the distressed person. They towed us in."
His rescuers' professionalism and friendliness so impressed him that Satchwell said they stuck in his mind for years and led him to the decision he just had to be one of them. He joined Coast Guard Reserve in October 1987.
Satchwell had joined the New York City Police Department at 18 in September 1967. "Being one of New York's Finest was interesting, but after a few years, it starts getting tougher and tougher," he said. "The hours and rotating shifts were tough. The possibility of getting hurt has a lot to do with it. I was never shot, thank God."
Coast Guard duty was a nice change of pace from chasing bad people, he said.
In police vernacular, Satchwell calls his style of recruiting the "scatter gun effect." "I'll take one target at a time, be it a school, firehouse police station, church or group of young adults," he noted. "Then I'll hit other targets of opportunity all the way back home. If I see two fellows parked in a police radio car talking to each other, I'll pull up and talk to them.
"Basically, its getting out there and hitting a lot of places," he said. "I'll know the next day if I was successful if someone uses my business card to call me. If I wasn't successful, no one will call and it's time to get back out there and try again."
Satchwell was surfing the Internet one day after retiring from the police force when he saw a Coast Guard ad for a mobile recruiter. "They were looking for someone to cover Tampa and the area out about 150 miles, where Coast Guardsmen are seldom seen," he said. He made his presence known better than any other Coast Guard Reserve recruiter.
"I'm very proud of him because he works extremely hard -- gives 100 percent all the time," said his wife of 27 years, Gail, at the Pentagon Recruiters of the Year ceremony. "It pays off. Everybody that comes in, he'll call them back and goes after them until he gets them in where they want to be.
"When he retired from the police department, he went on active duty in the Coast Guard because he was looking to keep himself a little busy," she said. "He always loved the Coast Guard and the water, and this was an opportunity to dabble in it again and be successful."
The couple has two children, Jennifer, 25, and Robert, 22.
"It's real pleasant to do what I'm doing now because I'm just talking to people, instead of putting handcuffs on anybody," Satchwell noted. "I'm not dealing with guns and violence anymore, but people, quality people. And if I'm successful with a case, the end result is I'm bringing a talented person into the Coast Guard. That's very rewarding."