LARGO — Capt. Joseph McGilley, the new commander of the Coast Guard air station next to St. Pete-Clearwater airport, has been here before.
"After I joined the Coast Guard they sent me here for my first duty station 24 years ago," said McGilley, who recently took over the active base. "It's fantastic to be back."
McGilley takes charge of what is, in effect, the largest Coast Guard air station in the United States.
Air Station Clearwater aircrews fly an average of more than 400 search-and-rescue cases each year along both the east and west coasts of Florida, the Bahamas, and beyond.
McGilley oversees department heads who command upward of 600 aviation, ground support and security personnel. His equipment includes a fleet of 10 MH-60T Jayhawks, the orange-and-black helicopters that Pinellas County residents and beachgoers see flying overhead into the Gulf every day. The helicopters are multi-mission, twin-engine, medium-range helicopters used in search and rescue, law enforcement, and other fast-response missions.
McGilley is also in charge of the C-130s that take off from St. Pete-Clearwater Airport throughout the day. The station's HC-130H7 Hercules aircraft is an ideal platform for long-range search and rescue, law enforcement, marine environmental protection and logistics.
"Air Station Clearwater not only serves the people of Florida and the boaters in the maritime community, but being the largest Coast Guard Air Station, we're the first unit to go and surge for hurricane operations anywhere in the Southeast," McGilley said. "Last year alone, we ran a lot of counter-narcotics operations in the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, even off South America."
McGilley served as Chief of Response for the Coast Guard's 9th District headquarters in Cleveland. The Philadelphia native graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.