Lifeguard On Duty While Marine Off Duty
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kindo Go
August 8, 2021
A young, bronze shinned, sunglass bedecked man watches beachgoers as they thoughtlessly enjoy relaxing at Virginia Beach, Virginia.
These people enjoy safety and the clean sand, because of his efforts every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day for the last three years. During the week, this young man wears a much different uniform then a swimsuit, the earth tone of Marine Corps woodland utilities and sergeant chevrons.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kenny A. Gomez, a combat videographer with Marine Corps Recruiting Command, worked as a part-time ocean lifeguard for two summers at North Myrtle Beach, and currently this year at Virginia Beach. Gomez has administered medical care for injured swimmers, reunited lost children with their families, and ensures the safety of beach patrons in the event of an emergency.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kenny A. Gomez, a combat videographer with Marine Corps Recruiting Command stands in front of his lifeguard stand at Virginia Beach, VW on June 6, 2021. Gomez worked as a part-time ocean lifeguard for two summers at North Myrtle Beach, and currently this year at Virginia Beach. (US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kindo Go)
“I wanted to work as an ocean lifeguard while being an active duty service member, even if it meant to work every single day during the summer,” Gomez, from (hometown) said.
Gomez started his lifeguard career at North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in the summer of 2019 when he was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
“When I arrived to the fleet I wanted to get back to lifeguarding because it gave me a more sense of purpose and opportunity to refresh myself during the summer season.” Gomez said.
Gomez as an ocean lifeguard educates and advises beach patrons on ocean safety. According to Gomez, he also promotes a positive and enjoyable experience for all citizens and visitors on the oceanfront.
Gomez trains during his free time on weekends and evenings. His training included: American Red Cross Lifeguard courses, swimming hundreds of meters in the aquatic environment and completing open ocean water training. The annual training is required because ocean lifeguards need to be in top physical condition to endure an emergency. Moreover, he participated in scenario-based training where they learned to save swimmers in a number of circumstances, for example beachgoers, who were in passive distress or active situations.
The city of North Myrtle Beach Services Division has the distinction to be the only United States Lifesaving Association Certified Agency on the Grand Strand area. Beach services operation is overseen by lifeguard coordinators, who are state-certified law enforcement officers and certified lifeguard instructors. Each year the city hires approximately 120 lifeguards to cover 54 lifeguard towers and nine miles of beachfront.
"Our ocean rescue team is proud to be home to people of different walks of life.” said May Lauzon, beach patrol police officer, at North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Gomez committed to work during the summer in the middle of global pandemic. After his deployment in support of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Africa 20.1 in May 2020. The North Myrtle Beach lifeguards worked under new safety precautions and procedures to ensure quality beach safety.
“COVID-19 made everything more difficult with appointments, training, etc. However, I never lost sight of what was important to me and I stayed on top of everything just to stay out there on the coastline.” said Gomez.
Gomez relocated permanent duty stations to MCRC in September 2020.
“Even though I was in a different state, I still had a strong desire to seek employment as an ocean lifeguard somewhere no matter what, I love to make that impact on people’s lives every time I’m out on the beach doing my job.” said Gomez.
Virginia Beach had the busiest weekend in history with 22 water rescues, 31 patrons rescued, 8 transfers to Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and 119 lost children reported on the weekend of July 4, 2021. Gomez worked the entire holiday weekend and maintained safety.
"We need everyone to watch the water, but due to our incredible crew of lifeguards on that weekend we were able to multitask and do the job they came to do, plus a couple of others,” said Tom Gill, Chief of the Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service.
Gomez also spends off-duty time collecting trash and participating in beach cleanups with volunteer programs.
With the final season lifeguarding within the Marine Corps soon coming to a close, Gomez plans to return to his home at Manahawkin, New Jersey in 2022 and pursue his Masters’ degree in Sports Business.
“Overall, I’ve had a blessed career,” Gomez said. “The Marine Corps gave me several opportunities to improve myself and molded me to the man I am today.”
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