Long Road From French Super Yachts To Fast Response Cutters
Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class James Connor
For some people, joining any military branch is never really a
choice. They've dreamt of putting on the uniform since before they
can remember. For others, it may be just a way to get out of mom and
dad's house once they graduated high school or out of a bad
For those who serve, there's the obvious
question once you complete a contract ... Do I stay or go? Some can't
wait to return home after being away, and others are just ready to
be in the civilian world again.
Then, of course, you have those that
decide to make the military a career. Going career happens in the
Coast Guard more than any other branch with a retention rate
steadily above 90 percent. Most people who join the Service, stay in
the Coast Guard, even if that wasn't their original plan.
For Petty Officer 3rd Class Morgan Harnay, his road to joining the
Coast Guard is one of a kind.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Morgan Harnay has gone from being a deck officer on super yachts to being a machinery technician in the Coast Guard. Harnay now spends his free time on liberty as a captain of a dinner cruise yacht. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class James Connor)
Harnay was born in a small town, Athis-Mons, which is about 40
minutes south of Paris, France. For most of his life, he lived in a
small fishing town -- St. Raphael in southern France. There are
several historical connections to the U.S. and World War II in the
area, but being a member of the U.S. military was never even a
thought to Harnay growing up much less a possibility.
near the water, it was nearly inevitable he would make a life at sea
one way or another. Eventually, he began working on superyachts.
There aren't any official agreed-upon definitions for these crafts,
but the term is typically used to describe large luxurious,
professionally crewed, motor, or sailing yachts ranging from 130 to
years of working on yachts, Harnay received word the superyacht on
which he was the first officer was up for sale. The crew was
instructed to take the ship to the Miami boat show. This event
happens to be one of the largest boat shows in the world. The
superyacht was almost guaranteed to sell.
Harnay and the rest
of the crew flew to Miami, and a few days later, the yacht arrived.
It didn't take long for it to go off the market. The ship sold to an
American couple who gave the whole crew the option to return home or
stay on working for them. He and a few other members quickly agreed.
In doing so, the American couple agreed to sponsor the crew for
It wasn't long after that Harnay received the
news that due to the new owners being American and the vessel
registry now out of the U.S., they were subject to U.S. regulations.
One of those regulations was that Harnay was no longer qualified to
be a deck officer on the yacht as he was not a U.S. citizen.
The owners wanted Harnay to stay, but unfortunately, after trying it
out as a crewmember for about a year and a half, it just wasn't
working for him. The couple agreed they would still sponsor Harnay
if he decided to leave his employment aboard the yacht.
took some time to decide what I wanted to do with my life," said
Harnay. There were lots of changes during this time. He was now
married, had a child, and transitioned to making a living as a
After a year and a half in Miami, he began to
miss life on the water and looked for ways to get back into the
yachting world. That's when a friend mentioned the Coast Guard.
Three weeks later, he was speaking with a recruiter, and five months
after that, he was standing on a yellow triangle enduring his first
day in boot camp at Cape May, New Jersey.
"The first two
weeks were interesting because my English was not what it is today.
In Miami, it's a lot of immigrants and a lot of different accents,
which makes it easy," said Harnay. "I was trying to copy what I was
seeing around me. It took about two weeks for them to understand I
At that time, a 32-year-old Harnay had gone
from being a first officer on a superyacht to a non-rated fireman
who just graduated from boot camp with a core group almost half his
age. After that, it was off to his first unit.
"I was sent
to an ATON unit in Long Island, New York," Harnay said. "I was a
fireman, so I spent my time moving buoys around, swapping for the
winter season and summer season. The transition was pretty hard, but
that's what I wanted, so I was cool with it."
After about a
year in Long Island, the opportunity arose to go to 'A-school' and
become a machinery technician. "I wanted to learn about the
engineering side of things," said Harnay.
When he completed
school, there was an opportunity to go to Hawaii. His duty station
is part of the Naval Support Division (NSD) which is part of sector
engineering in Honolulu. Harnay and the rest of the NSD provide
engineering and maintenance support to all three FRC's homeported in
Some of the team, like Harnay can occasionally get
underway with the ships for training or to support missions if crews
are short-handed for some reason. While underway in Hawaii, he was
finally able to obtain his U.S. citizenship.
"So, I'm in
Hawaii, I have my citizenship, now I want to be a captain," said
Harnay. "So, I went to school and got my captain's license, applied
for a job here in Honolulu, and I'm now the captain of a dinner
Harnay was thankful to his command for
allowing him to take the part-time position, which he does a few
evenings a week when he's off duty.
With a short time left on
this enlistment, he has to decide what comes next.
because I'm from France, being in the Coast Guard is a proud
feeling. I have a lot of friends in Europe that never experienced
what I get to do every day," said Harnay. "I get to look at it
through the eyes of the American military, which in Europe is looked
upon with big eyes. It's a very special feeling."
France is where Harnay is from, Miami has become home to him. If the
time comes for him to return home once his Coast Guard service is
complete, he can do so without any hesitation. Not only is Miami
home, but it also happens to be one of the largest markets for
superyachts in the world. With his previous experience working
through the ranks as a deck officer, his U.S. citizenship, captain's
license, and Coast Guard experience all on his resume, he will
likely be in demand to captain any vessel.
"The Coast Guard
is very well respected in the industry I came from," said Harnay.
"You really stand out anytime they see Coast Guard on your
Although not the original reason for joining
the Coast Guard, it's definitely become the cherry on top of the
whole adventure. From just hoping to figure out how to get back on
the yacht as a deck officer to becoming a U.S. citizen and a member
of the Coast Guard.
"While my family and I still have time
to make the decision, in the end, that's how we will make our
choice. Which position is the best option for my family," said
Whether he stays or goes, the impact the Coast Guard
made on his life will never be forgotten.
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