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U.S. Coast Guard Oral History Program

Katrina Archival & Historical Record Team (KART)

Hurricane Katrina, 2005

Interviewee: YN3 John Kubik, USCG

Interviewer: Not Listed
Date of Interview:  28 October 2005
Place: Marine Safety Office, St. Louis, Missouri 


YN3 Kubick departed St. Louis just after Katrina hit the Gulf coast. He returned to St. Louis on Sept 11. He served as a crewmember on the rescue boats. This was his first DART deployment and his first experience in search and rescue. “It felt good because I actually felt like I was part of the Coast Guard instead of sitting at a desk...” He never felt threatened because they always traveled in a convoy with another task force. Kubick said Arizona’s task force was the best he worked with because they were organized and did not try to take control. They were based at Zeyphr Field. Conditions there were not very good in the beginning; however, they improved within a week. The only problem for Kubick was not having sufficient water supplies. 

Q: Can you please state and spell your full name please?

YN3 Kubik: John Michael Kubik; K-U-B-I-K.

Q: And your rate?

YN3 Kubik: YN3.

Q: Okay, and what do you consider to be your hometown?

YN3 Kubik: Roswell, New Mexico.

Q: Oh yeah?

YN3 Kubik: Yes.

Q: I’ve never been there. 

YN3 Kubik: That’s where I enlisted out of. I grew up in Texas.

Q: Okay. So can you break down for me the dates you deployed and when you moved to New Orleans and when you came back, and things like that?

YN3 Kubik: We left here August 28th I think it was; the 28th or 29th we left here, of August, and we came back September 11th. We got back to St. Louis the morning of September 11th which was a Sunday.

Q: What was your position on the team?

YN3 Kubik: I was a just passenger on the boat for a really long . . . helped pull people in, moved stuff out of the way, kept an eye out for debris in the water.

Q: Did you volunteer for that?

YN3 Kubik: That was just what I was directed to do.

Q: Okay.  Did you want to go?

YN3 Kubik: Yes, I wanted to go.

Q: Okay, well that’s good.  Did the deployment interfere with any kind of previously planned deployment or operation or school or project, or anything?

YN3 Kubik: Oh yes. I had to drop one of my classes because if you miss two they automatically drop you so I had to drop a class, and I was in the process of moving into a new apartment and I had just started moving the day before, so I put that on hold. 

Q: Have you been involved in any kind of flood response before?

YN3 Kubik: Before that, no.  This is my first time doing anything like that.

Q: Okay. Did you notice anything about the deployment that was particularly challenging to you or the rest of the team? Did you get a lot of training to do that kind of stuff or was it just kind of . . . ?

YN3 Kubik: No, not really. I didn’t have too much training. It was just, I don’t know, not always enough people. Well there were enough people, it was just sometimes there were too many people but that was not with us, it was the other people we were working with. 

Q: Okay. While you were down there were you witness to any violence from New Orleans citizens towards you or towards each other?

YN3 Kubik: No, we didn’t see anything, just one guy that was like screaming at us but he was just kind of crazy.

Q: What were the details of that?

YN3 Kubik: He was just kind of walking around in the water and we asked him if needed help and he was like, “No, I don’t need help.” He’s like, “I’ll help you find people”, and we told him we’ve got in on our own and he just started yelling about that. Then he swam up to where we were taking the people and he was trying to cause problems up there with the other people and then he jumped in the water and swam off.

Q: Okay. Were you guys escorted most of the time?

YN3 Kubik: For the most part, yes.

Q: Okay.

YN3 Kubik: We always were in a convoy with some other task force or whatever.

Q: Did you feel safe?

YN3 Kubik: Oh yes.

Q: Yes.

YN3 Kubik: Yes, the people that we went with knew what they were doing. They had protection. They were good.

Q: Okay. So you had interaction with a whole lot of other agencies?

YN3 Kubik: Yes we did.

Q: Like what kind of agencies?

YN3 Kubik: We had like Arizona Task Force; like their firefighter task force. We had California, New Mexico and Colorado. In my opinion Arizona was the best one to work with.

Q: Why is that?

YN3 Kubik: Because they knew what they were doing. They were organized. They had all the equipment they needed and they didn’t try to take control. They didn’t try and take over and act like it was their thing to do, and so Arizona just worked with us and went with it.

Q: And were they like an urban SAR team?

YN3 Kubik: Yes, urban SAR.

Q: Okay, so they were getting up into the houses and helping people out and stuff?

YN3 Kubik: Right.

Q: Okay. And you guys lived at Zephyr Field while you there?

YN3 Kubik: Yes.

Q: Okay, what was that like?

YN3 Kubik: The first couple days it was pretty rough because we got there and no one had running water or whatnot and we were sleeping in the dome on sleeping bags and everything, and it was pretty hot because there were so many people, but after a couple days they finally got fans in there and then they were bringing in portable water and things like that, so it wasn’t too bad after a while.

Q: Alright. So this was your first DART deployment. What was it like being involved in a response this size?

YN3 Kubik: It felt good because I actually felt like I was a part of the Coast Guard instead of just sitting at a desk all the time and just doing admin stuff that nobody knows about. So it felt good because you know there are actually people out there that were actually helping and it just felt good when I came back. Everybody was like, “Oh, thank you for what you did”. And my friends, you know more respect from friends so that’s always a good thing. 

Q: Okay. That’s probably because they saw it on TV and stuff.

YN3 Kubik: Right, they see things on TV. And I’ve got one of my friends that always jokes and says, “Coast Guard is fake military.” She started telling me that after that she’s not going to call us fake military anymore. 

Q: That’s good. Speaking of TV coverage, did you have any media coverage down there?

YN3 Kubik: Well not down there but once I got back up here.

Q: Oh yes, really?

YN3 Kubik: Yes.

Q: Okay.

YN3 Kubik: Because when they did the . . . they had TV crews down at the boathouse.

Q: When you guys came back?

YN3 Kubik: Yes. 

Q: And how was it?

YN3 Kubik: It was pretty good. I was on Channel 5 at 11, or News 5 at 11; whatever it is, so I was on there and they talked to me for a little while.

Well that’s good. But did you have any media on your boat when you were down in New Orleans?

YN3 Kubik: I didn’t, no. We had one Auxiliarist PA but . . . .

Q: Okay. Did you not have media because you were told not to or did it just not come together?

YN3 Kubik: They never really said not to but I mean there was media around, I just stayed away from it and didn’t get down there.

Q: Okay. I don’t know what your previous assignment history was but was this your first involvement in search and rescue?

YN3 Kubik: Yes.

Q: Yes, okay. What was that like?

YN3 Kubik: It was a good thing because it was just, you know I guess I was helping out people and so I was actually doing something for the Coast Guard; for somebody else, and it just felt good to help out people.

Q: Are there any rescues that stand out in your mind as particularly challenging?

YN3 Kubik: Not really, nothing that I was involved in. All mine, you know they were just pretty easy -- people climb in the boat and we’d take them. There was one lady though that she had paddled herself in. She had her own boat or something and she paddled herself in and she had three dogs and four cats or something, and she had them all waiting, you know. They were taking them up in a truck up to where the buses were and they’re like, “Ma’am, we won’t be able to take all these animals”, and she was like, “No, no, I’ll wait until the end and be the last ride up there.” And so the lady wasn’t going to leave her animals and she was going to wait until the end to save her animals with her. 

Q: Did you have any interaction with the Critical Incident Stress Management Team; the CISM Team?

YN3 Kubik: We did when we were down there. It was just a debriefing. They just talked to us for a little bit on outgoing or whatever.

Q: What was that like?

YN3 Kubik: It was just sitting around telling them what we felt about the deployment and just nothing really, not really a big deal.

Q: Did you find that useful?

YN3 Kubik: Not really because I didn’t really talk much and just, I don’t know, we were all there and we were ready to go home. We didn’t really want to continue talking about it.

Q: Okay. So what were the most tremendous challenges that you faced, just kind of in the whole response?

YN3 Kubik: Overall?

Q: Yes.

YN3 Kubik: I don’t know, there were minor issues. There wasn’t really anything that was a major challenge. There was just getting everybody to work together because sometimes we were working with a different task force and we had to wait around for them and it just kind of delayed our time getting out there. I don’t know, I guess really water was the only thing that we had a problem with but that started finally coming in and we had lots of water, so we didn’t have to worry about that.

Q: Okay. So would you have any recommendations for future responses, like let’s say you’re in charge of the next huge flood, what do you do differently; policies, personnel and equipment?

YN3 Kubik: For one; have a lot of water. We have all the equipment, you know sleeping bags, pillows, things like that, but just let people know ahead of time, you know, put them on standby instead of . . . because our guys got caught off guard because they were like, “Oh, you’re being deployed”, and I didn’t know anything about it until when they called me. So just let people know ahead of, you know the weekend before or the week before and say, “Hey, there’s a possibility of a huge hurricane coming in; a huge whatever”, you know, “Be prepared, be on standby, don’t have any plans, be prepared for this”, and they did that for Wilma. They told us, “Just be on standby just in case.” And I think it would have run smoother if we would have went down there because everyone would have been prepared. We would have had our stuff packed. We would have known what to expect.

Q: So earlier notification?

YN3 Kubik: Yes, earlier notification, just have more water on hand. Keep a big supply of water on hand and just other things like sleeping bags and you know whatnot.

Q: So you guys are pretty self-sufficient when you deploy somewhere?

YN3 Kubik: Yes, I mean we had help. Well we pretty much used our own unit. We were doing everything through here from down in New Orleans. Baton Rouge helped us out a little bit. They let us use their showers when we came into town but pretty much of everything we had done was within our unit and everything. Like the SKs that were down there, they went out to Baton Rouge each day to get everything that we needed for the next day.

Q: Okay. What kind of stuff were they buying? What kind of stuff did you need? What kind of stuff could you take out there?

YN3 Kubik: They were getting like the Gatorade packets for the electrolytes. They were getting more water. They’d get handy wipes just to take out during the day. Whatever the HS would need; if she needed Tylenol or she needed something she would say, “Hey, here’s a list of stuff I need”, and just whatever else people within the unit needed, even if it was just whatever.

Q: Where was the HS from?

YN3 Kubik: She’s from here.

Q: Here?

YN3 Kubik: Yes, she’s a 1st Class.

Q: HS1, okay.

YN3 Kubik: And she was a pretty good HS. She took care of everybody. She made sure everybody was drinking their water and Gatorade.

Q: Okay. I think that’s all I need unless you have anything else you want to add that you think is historically significant.

YN3 Kubik: Not really, not too much.

Q: So you’re proud you were involved in a response like this?

YN3 Kubik: Yes, I was ready to go to Wilma and Rita.

Q: Sure.

YN3 Kubik: The same thing with Wilma. I was just like, “Hey, that would be cool."

Q: Because you know what to expect?

YN3 Kubik: Right, and I knew ahead of time so I could call my school and I told them, “Hey, there’s a possibility of me being deployed”, so they knew ahead of time and I would be able to get some paperwork in and get excused; absence, and I wouldn’t have to drop.

Q: Yes, okay.

YN3 Kubik: And there’s another good thing to have the earlier notification. 

Q: Sure.

YN3 Kubik: But yes, Wilma, even whatever else comes up I’d go.

Q: Okay.

YN3 Kubik: I mean there are other people that, you know they have more of a family. I don’t have a family, it just me so it’s no big deal if I go. 

Q: Okay, that’s all I need. 

YN3 Kubik: Alright, cool.


Last Modified 1/12/2016