LANCASTER — A man born and raised in Lancaster has been named most senior reserve enlisted member of the U.S. Coast Guard.
During a change-of-the-watch ceremony at Coast Guard Station Washington, D.C., in May, Eric L. Johnson, the son of Jean and Bob Johnson of Lancaster, was named the sixth Coast Guard Reserve Force Master Chief (CGRF-MC) and the first from New Hampshire.
A 1980 graduate of White Mountains Regional High School, Johnson succeeded Mark H. Allen and on Tuesday, Johnson, speaking from his home in Chantilly, Va., said he was “absolutely thrilled” with his new post and the fact that his accomplishment might inspire young people in similar circumstances.
During high school, Johnson said his prospects for attending college weren’t assured, but he did have the good fortune to attend a college fair in 1979 where a Coast Guard recruiter was speaking.
“I was actively involved in first aid and the local ambulance service, and I was intrigued by emergency services,” said Johnson, thanks in large part to Marty Driscoll and Andy Buteau, his scoutmasters in Lancaster Boy Scout Troop 219. “As I started to see what the Coast Guard did, it also intrigued me and I wanted to be involved in it,” Johnson said.
Enlisting in the active-duty Coast Guard in April 1980, Johnson served aboard Coast Guard Cutters UNIMAK and DUANE and was also assigned to the Coast Guard R & D Center in Groton, Conn. In May 1988, Johnson joined the Coast Guard Reserve and furthered his career in a Selected Reserve assignment at Coast Guard Group, Long Island Sound in Connecticut. While assigned there, he was deployed in Operation Desert Storm.
Later, Johnson was recalled to active duty at Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico, and later served as Reserve Senior Enlisted Assignment Officer at the Coast Guard Personnel Service Center, Reserve Personnel Management Division.
From 1987 to 1993, Johnson was a police dog officer with the Connecticut State Police and he then worked in a similar capacity with the New Hampshire State Police from 1993 until his retirement in 2007.
Most recently, Johnson was a program reviewer in the Coast Guard’s Office of Budget and Programs. He and his wife, the former Valerie Brooks of Dalton — who is a fellow WMRHS alum and is a master sergeant in the New Hampshire Air Guard who served in Iraq in 2007 — have four children: David, Daniel, Arthur and Jackie.
Johnson said he was honored to be named CGRF-MC, noting that the selection process saw him vying with the best of the Coast Guard.
“By law, only one percent of anyone in the military can achieve the rank of E9,” Johnson said, “and then they chose from the E9s so it was very competitive to make it to E9 and then to be selected among the E9s.”
In remarks as the new CGRF-MC, Johnson recalled telling his audience that after high school, “I didn’t think the opportunity was there for me to go to college and this (the Coast Guard) was just a tremendous opportunity to be exposed to experiences that I would not have had any other way.”
“Kids from places like Northern New Hampshire can find opportunities that can set them up for success,” Johnson summed up, “and I will say right now that the Coast Guard is one of those opportunities.”