Trey Thunborg is a 2010 Socorro High School graduate and currently holds the rank of Lt. O-3 in the United States Coast Guard.
What did you enjoy about high school?
I enjoyed almost everything from high school. I graduated in 2010 from there. I played football for the first three years … then I did cross country and swimming and track for four years. I did just about everything.
Why did you decide to go to Coast Guard Academy?
I had nominations from Air Force but was medically disqualified die to a shoulder injury. So the Coast Guard gave me a waiver and that kind of made the decision easy for me.
What was your life like in the Academy?
It's really busy. You're always up from about 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on somebody's schedule, whether that be your studies or military training or sports period. So there's always something going on. I didn't wear civilian clothes for the first three years I was there.
Were there specialized scholastic studies, or was it a base education?
I guess it's specialized. I think we had eight majors; I did mechanical engineering. They're pretty generalized for shipboard studies. So I took a lot of classes in nautical navigation, shipboard principles as far as ship stability, ship systems. Just general rules of how to drive a ship.
Given who your dad is, was mechanical engineering in the family?
Yeah. He was a mechanical engineer and his his dad, my grandpa was a mechanical engineer, so it seemed like the thing to do.
It's a family lineage. Did you have a good grasp on mechanical engineering before you went into the Academy?
I think I did, as far as the principles of it. It's not something that super easily to me, but I learned that with time.
Let's talk about your time after the Academy. Did you owe the Coast Guard four years?
It's five years of active duty time and two years of reserve time.
What did you do when you got out of the Academy?
So my first year was Coast Guard Cutter Mellon out in Seattle, Washington. It's a 378-foot cutter made in 1968. I was the auxiliary division officer down there and damage control assistant of engineers, and we were in charge of everything outside of the engine room, engineering wise. That would be all the ventilation … the steering gear, the fire pumps and on the damage control side, all the damage control things. So fire pumps, the crew's training, fire extinguishers everywhere, the actual tools for breaching and making entry, and then general stability. So part of my job was calculating the stability of the ship daily based on how much fuel we burned and how much balance you need to take on.
What does exactly does a cutter do?
What a cutter does is everything, but primarily we were doing law enforcement. Half of it we spent down on the coast of South America and Central America doing counter drug boarding. Then we spent probably the other majority of the time up in Alaska doing fishery boarding. We did have one six-month patrol when we went over to Japan and did fishery boarding off the coast of Japan.
What exactly is a boarding?
A boarding is where you get a team and go on to another vessel, and you check out what they're doing on that vessel. So if for drug boardings … we swipe and smell around if there's any residue of drugs, question the crew. If there is probable cause we start drilling holes and looking for compartments trying to find drugs. For fisheries boarding, it's more you go and check for safety gear and make sure the fisherman are complying with everything they need do to be safe. And then as well, just the fish, make sure they have not too many, is the the right kind of fish and make sure the catched fish is legal and not using any illegal techniques.
How long were you in that position?
Right about for two years.
What did you do after that?
After that I went to the Maritime Security Response Team in Virginia. That's the Coast Guard's counter terrorism response unit.. So there was a lot of training … breech and insertion techniques.
You did law enforcement. What did you enjoy about it?
I enjoyed working with the people. There were a lot of great guys in that. I enjoyed going out and doing a mission, if you will.
Including the Academy, you've in for something like 10 years now?
I just hit 10.
Congratulations! What has your experience been like overall?
It has been amazing. I think the Coast Guard is a really well-kept secret for what they can do. I like to do everything and I don't like pigeon-holing myself, and the Coast Guard has allowed to do all of those things. I've been a police officer and a fireman … I had orders to flight school.
What's upcoming for you? You want to be a pilot?
I had orders to flight school but I ended up turning those down. My wife is also in, so as far as career path-wise and keeping us together, we have a little one, so we figured it would be best to stay on our current career path which is engineering officer. I'm just a little high-ranking to be starting something all over again. It wouldn't have really allowed me to get a full career out of it. It's a pigeon-hole move at this stage, but just the fact that the Coast Guard would allow to do whatever I want … that is amazing and unheard of in most military services.
What's your current rank?
I'm a Lieutenant, O-3
You said you met your wife in the Coast Guard. Has she been in as long as you have?
Yes. So we were classmates at the Academy. She's a small town girl from Iowa so we both have a lot in common compared to big city people, so it worked out well.
It has to be nice to be with somebody who has experienced the same things as you have, right?
Definitely. She sees some of the struggles.
What's it like going from Socorro to the East Coast, where everything is kind of hustle and bustle?
It's definitely a change. People here aren't as friendly off the bat, but once you start knowing people and knowing the culture they're for the most part just as friendly.
Growing up in Socorro, are there any advantages you took into your current career?
I would say so. What set me up was the high school itself and how much stuff you're allowed to do at the high school. It's a smaller school, but the support is there … it helped me be more rounded.
You and your wife are very busy. What do you do for fun? How do you relax?
We try and get out do other things. We like to hike a lot, as much as we can. I've always been a fan of shooting, but it's a little harder to out on the East coast.