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Securing America: Retired Coast Guard commander continues to protect his country

Kyle Moroney • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:07 AM

Dubuc, 53, is a former commander of Coast Guard Group Grand Haven, now Sector Field Office Grand Haven. His main duties as commander had subsided as he waited retirement in the coming weeks of 9/11 — after serving 21 years in the Coast Guard. 

“I can just remember a dozen of us standing and watching it on TV,” Dubuc said of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center. “I was in a state of disbelief. I don’t think I have ever felt that helpless.”

Throughout that day and in the weeks that followed, Dubuc yearned for whatever information he could gather about the tragic events that unfolded in front of America’s eyes in New York, and later the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I couldn’t get enough information,” he said. “I wanted to learn more. Nobody really knew what had happened for awhile.”

As the Grand Haven High School varsity hockey coach at the time, Dubuc digressed a bit from the horrifying nightmare and carried on with practice that night with his team.

“Nothing like this had happened in their lives,” he said. “Frankly, nothing like that had happened in anyone’s lives. I said to them, ‘We will deal with it as a country. But for now, let’s just go out and try to put this behind us tonight.’”

His hockey players responded well and continued on with their practice, he said. Even if only for two hours, Dubuc said it was “good medicine” for him to be on the ice, briefly escaping the tumultuous tribulation that marred our entire country earlier that day.

In the days that followed 9/11, Debuc discussed the events of 9/11 with fellow Coast Guard members, and how their duties in protecting U.S. waters and its waterfronts will likely change. 

 “Certainly this was the first time since Pearl Harbor that we had ever been hit on our soil,” Dubuc said. “Nobody thought about protecting our own facilities — it usually happened overseas.

“It wasn’t long after that that I needed to get back into contributing to the anti-terrorism effort,” he said. “... As the government made changes and was committed to combatting terrorism, that’s when I really started to find a way to become a part of that.”

In August 2002, Dubuc got a job with the Transportation Security Administration within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He is the TSA assistant federal security director for regulatory inspection in Grand Rapids.

Dubuc works with flight instructors, flight schools, airlines and airports to test and inspect security programs. The TSA is responsible for inspecting airports, passenger airlines, freight forwarders, and passenger and cargo carriers at several West Michigan airports.

“We enforce the security programs,” he said. “Our side is the industry side of it. “

The horrifying events of 9/11 forced the U.S. government to make some changes in how to become more efficient and effective in protecting its land — onshore and offshore — and its people, Dubuc explained.

“I think, from my viewpoint, a lot of different agencies didn’t share information and didn’t work together well,” he said. “As a result of 9/11 — if you can draw any good out of it — a lot of agencies were brought under the umbrella of Homeland Security, and it opened up the lines of communication and collaboration opened up.”

The Department of Homeland Security did not exist prior to 9/11. It was created in November 2002 as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Since 9/11, Americans have grown accustomed to increased security at airport check points, with full body scans and pat downs for flight passengers, as well as a thorough search of all luggage boarding any aircraft.

Prior to 9/11, passenger screening was required by airlines; however, they were often conducted by private companies that were hired by the airlines, according to Dubuc. Now, passenger and luggage screening is conducted by federal TSA agents. 

“When TSA took over, it was done by government employees under government supervision with new standards,” Dubuc said.

There were “growing pains” — not only for passengers going through the screening process, but also for those creating the screening program.

“We had to do it now,” Dubuc said. “We did it the best we could to put the screening operation together.”

Those whose jobs it is to help protect this country will never forget the reason they do what they do, Dubuc said.

“For many people on the industry side, they have not forgotten,” he said of 9/11. “It really devastated the aviation industry, and I don’t think they would want to go back and relive that day.

Dubuc said Americans will always be threatened by radical extremists, and the best way to combat it is to prevent acts of terrorism.

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