Many people take life for granted. Not Jim "CC" Kreglo. Saving lives is both a vocation and avocation for Kreglo, who spends his days working as an EMT (emergency medical technician) and now as the U.S. Virgin Islands' Division Commander of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Born in Huntington in the land-locked state of West Virginia, Kreglo learned how to swim and scuba dive, skills he still uses today, at the local YMCA. He also was taught to fence, a sport that would ultimately take him to the Summer Olympics in 1984 where he represented the Virgin Islands. A love of marine life and the outdoors followed Kreglo to college where he graduated from the University of Florida at Gainesville with a degree in wildlife ecology and a minor in African studies.
After college, Kreglo says, "I worked in the field as a tour guide to East and Central Africa. That's when I recognized that first aid and CPR skills would be important to know." Back in Gainesville, Kreglo took an EMT course and became certified. Shortly thereafter, a college friend invited him to visit her family in St. John.
"I came for a short stay and ended up staying," he says. "St. John seemed like a great place to live."
That was 1981. Kreglo got his feet wet in his new home immediately. The first weekend, he took 27 Boy Scouts on a camping trip to Stevens Cay. This experience, plus his years of being a scout leader in Florida, inspired him to start the first Sea Explorer post on St. John. Soon after, he landed a job as an EMT in the clinic on St. John and taught Red Cross swimming to kids enrolled in the Virgin Islands' National Park summer camp program and Red Cross first aid and CPR to adults. He also found time to coach young people in fencing – an activity that he would follow up by taking the kids out for a fishing trip afterward on his 21-foot Tortola-built boat.
In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, Kreglo decided he wanted to get more involved in patriotic volunteerism.
"One of my favorite TV shows was 'Sea Hunt,' since I loved to fish and scuba dive," says Kreglo, of the early 1960s program. "I was visiting up in Florida at the time and got a hold of some of the old episodes on video. The main character, played by Lloyd Bridges, was a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. What he did always seemed so exciting. So when I returned, I found there was a flotilla in St. Thomas and signed up."
Kreglo has served in the Auxiliary in a variety of missions. One of these is using his EMT skills at regatta time. In 2007, he medically assisted three sailors injured in the International Rolex Regatta: one who took a foredeck fall, another with a head injury and yet another who dislocated a shoulder. The next year, he was on hand to help get medical attention to a racing sailor who suffered a heart attack.
On the fishing front, Kreglo spearheaded a program that provides commercial fishermen with kits full of survival equipment. The 2009-formed St. John flotilla is currently making a DVD where members demonstrate the use of the individual survival items in the kit. This DVD will then be handed out as a self-study training aid when kits are disbursed.
While Kreglo enjoys working in many of the Auxiliary's missions, including teaching boating safety courses, marine dealer visits where informational brochures on boating safety are handed out, and patrols as an EMT with active duty Coast Guardsmen. One of the areas he's come to really relish in recent years is aviation patrol.
"I started out flying logistics, such as bringing parts to repair a helicopter from Air Station Borinquen in Puerto Rico, to flying multi-mission patrols, like looking for boats in trouble or suspicious activities."
Last December, Kreglo, also with Auxiliarist Lee Elvins and Auxiliary pilot Chuck Fischer, successfully found a missing fisherman adrift in a 27-foot boat off the coast of Tortola after a more than nine-hour search.
"That's what it's all about," says Kreglo, "helping people and saving lives."