Thanks to his time in the U.S. Coast Guard, Mark Paulat is always prepared

Semper Paratus

Thanks to his time in the U.S. Coast Guard, Mark Paulat is always prepared.

By Faith Novak

Local Park Ranger Mark Paulat served on active duty in the United States Coast Guard from 1981 to 1988, followed by three years in the Active Guard Reserve.

After high school, without future plans, his father advised Mark to “pay your Uncle Sam a visit.” Mark wasn’t opposed to the idea and decided to enlist in the Coast Guard. He worked as a fireman aboard a patrol boat in Hawaii and was dispatched on a number of search and rescue missions and law enforcement duties. When Mark’s tour of duty aboard the ship ended, he applied for aviation training and was accepted into aviation machinist school. After graduating and being promoted to petty officer, he worked and flew primarily on C-130 “Hercules” aircraft. In his role as a dropmaster on the flight crew, Mark was responsible for launching rescue equipment from the aircraft to people in distress. He participated in numerous search and rescue, law enforcement, and logistics missions around the world while assigned to air stations in Kodiak, Alaska, and Sacramento, California. After more than seven years in the Coast Guard, he decided it was time move on.

Mark intended to land a career as an aircraft mechanic, since that was his favorite job while in the service. He was offered a few positions, including one in Saudi Arabia. He ultimately declined the offer. Just days later, Operation Desert Storm began. He worked a variety of jobs and after a few years, Mark and his family moved to Arizona. He found work at Gavilan Peak Elementary School and also worked at Boulder Creek High School.

Looking for work that was more meaningful, Mark decided to start his own wildlife rescue service. This primarily consisted of rescuing wild animals from peoples’ homes. While he was helping with an Eagle Scout project, he was offered a position doing burrowing owl relocation, where Mark captured owls from areas slated to be developed and re-established them in protected habitats. In his words, this job was “amazing.” However, it wasn’t a job with a consistent future, so his search for a career continued.

That’s when Mark found a position with Maricopa County Parks and Recreation constructing hiking trails. He worked at all of the county parks and, in time, one of the ranger positions in the department became available. Mark secured the position and has been working as a ranger ever since. Mark provides guided hikes, archery lessons, and survival classes. He says the position is a lot of fun and that he feels blessed to be in this line of work.

While working as a park ranger, Mark realized that the entertainment industry “makes animals into monsters” and changes the perception society has of them. He explains that animals are defensive and completely harmless, when left alone. As he talks to folks about surprise “visitors” around their homes, he loves to see people’s eyes light up when they suddenly comprehend why animals are showing up in their yards. Another thing Mark enjoys is taking people out on guided hikes and seeing their reactions. He says, “It’s similar to being on safari in Africa and discovering a giraffe.” He explains that people are not used to seeing wild animals moving about freely in close proximity, without barriers, unlike at a zoo, so many participate with some trepidation.

The service taught him discipline, focus, attention to detail, strong work ethic, and to take pride in the quality of his work. His time in the Coast Guard also shaped how he sees his role in any endeavor and what he can give back. And, because of his time in the service, he is––semper paratus––always prepared.

Teamwork is another valuable skill that Mark attributes to his time in the Coast Guard. “You have to trust people you barely know with your life,” he says. “Working closely with these great people, particularly in times of duress, you form close bonds, unbreakable by time.”

Through the years, Mark has taken life lessons from his time in the service and applied them to every job, including the most important one of all, caring for his family. “They deserve my best and their success and happiness is mine,” says Mark.



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