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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.
May 25, 2005

The Road To and From Miami

Being independent and thus working with a variety of companies, often finds me doing a variety of things. And in that variety of things, many turn out to be very fun and life enhancing experiences. It is one of the pleasures and privileges of working in the media.

So this week found me in Miami, flying down Monday to spend that afternoon, Tuesday and Wednesday morning with the U.S. Coast Guard stationed in Miami. I am working with WETA, the PBS station in Washington, D.C. and Leo Eaton, head of Eaton Creative, a DC area production company. We’re investigating whether or not we can find enough stories out of the Miami base and the individuals associated with this base, that we can produce and sell a documentary, multi-episode to a network.

In the couple of days I was there, I wandered the base, went over a 110 [a Coast Guard Cutter that is 110 feet long], went out on a small boat on a patrol, listened to the stories of interesting individuals and got to watch at relatively close hand some of the workings of the Coast Guard.

It is not a military organization in that it does not report into the DOD [Department of Defense]. It is part of Homeland Security, a change post 9/11 from the Department of Treasury.

But in every way that seems military to me, it is a military group. I watched a “65” fly over us, piloted by an extraordinary young woman, Lt. Liz Booker, who has utilized the Coast Guard as a method of overcoming youthful rebellion and to become the one thing she wanted to be, a pilot – and she is a damn good one from all the reports I heard.

I met another young woman, Petty Officer Bartlett, who works in Public Affairs and moonlights as a rock singer. One of the bands she sings with is made up of Coast Guarders. It’s called “Drowning Oscar,” Oscar being the name of the dummy used by the Coast Guard in their life training exercises. I got to see one, all crumpled up in a storage locker.

Our guide for part of all of this was Lt. Tony Russell, who has been Public Affairs Officer in Miami and is headed this “transfer season” for the Nantucket, a 110, where he will be C.O. and will fulfill what he is sure will be one of the highlights of his career, commanding one of these impossibly small and necessary ships which work to intercept drugs, illegal immigrants and to head off the potential Trojan Horse of our new age, the “sum of all fears, ‘a nuke in a box.’” [New York Times, May 25, 2005, p.A12] brought into the U.S. via a small boat out of an unregulated port.

Running up the Miami River, lined with boats that could only be described as “tramp” steamers, you understand the complexity of the problem. In addition to all the huge container ships, there are hundreds upon hundreds of tramp steamers coming up from Latin America and the Caribbean carrying cargo into this country and carting out what we have thrown away – old cars, old mattresses, old appliances. They are junk here in the U.S. but imminently valuable in poor countries.

My respect for these men and women is tremendous; I must confess that before I began exploring their world I hardly knew what they did. But having touched it, I cannot ever forget it.

Seaman Rivera talked animatedly and with huge pride, as did a number of other seamen, about the pride they feel when they carry out a successful SAR [Search and Rescue] operation. And listening to them, I was appalled by the number of people who abuse the Coast Guard, calling for help when they don’t need it – a case last week of SAR really turned out to be some fishermen who didn’t want to quit fishing when one of their company was overwhelmed by seasickness!

We are a coastal country; these men and women are charged with helping protect us – and to save us when we run into trouble, either legitimately or through common idiocy.

God love ‘em.