A lot of people dream of traveling and seeing the world.
Very few actually get a chance to live that dream.
But, that’s exactly what Northeast Bradford graduate Jake Balchikonis has done since high school with the Coast Guard.
“I graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy with a degree in business management with a focus in
information systems,” Balchikonis said. “I was then assigned to the CGC HARRIET LANE as a deck watch officer. I became the Assistant Law enforcement officer onboard after qualifying as a boarding officer. I then did multiple tours in the North Atlantic, Caribbean Ocean, and then crossing the Panama Canal into the Pacific Ocean. While in the Pacific ocean I led successful interdictions of multiple go-fast vessels carrying thousands of pounds of cocaine to the United States. While in the Caribbean Ocean we saved numerous migrants while at sea. I remember we found about 10 people on a big inner tube trying to float to Key West from Cuba and when we found them they were taking on water and If we didn’t show up they would have drowned. So thankful we were there.
“Currently I am a Lieutenant in the Coast Guard stationed in Portsmouth, VA, at a staff assignment where I am preparing to become an Operations Officer onboard CGC SPENCER in July. My wife, Chelsea Miller of Rome, and I purchased our first home in Virginia Beach where we live with our dog, Coda. We love to travel and spend our free time kayaking, biking, hiking, golfing, and running.”
Ever since he was younger Balchikonis found success.
In high school he was a standout runner and wrestler, making states in
wrestling, cross country and track and field in his career.
“I was fortunate enough to have had many great memories,” Balchikonis said of high school. “I qualified for the PIAA state competition in three sports (Cross country, wresting, track and field) during my high school career. Participating at the state level, in one sport or another since ninth grade, is an accomplishment I am proud of.
“My absolute favorite is qualifying for the state wrestling championships my senior year. The match and stage were not only awesome, but the people who were there is what really stands out to me now. Being able to share that moment with my dad, brother, coaches and best friends is what I will never forget. Another moment that stands out is when I broke the school record in the 800 meters at the state championship.”
After high school Balchikonis continued to take part in sports.
“At the U.S. Coast Guard Academy I wrestled and played rugby,” Balchikonis said. “My favorite wrestling memory is when I cracked the lineup my freshman year. Although it was short lived due to a career-ending injury it still stands out as my favorite. After that injury healed I was talked into by friends to play rugby. Since the academy had a good program I decided to give it a try.
“After some practice I was able to crack the lineup. The best memory I have is when I scored the winning try to qualify for the national tournament in sevens. We went on to train and then play in Colorado that summer before we were assigned. The schedule at the Academy is very challenging and athletics is not a priority. Military preparedness and academics were our main objectives.”
For Balchikonis sports had a big part in him becoming the person he is today.
“Sports tremendously impacted the person I am today,” he said. “The grit and determination that wrestling takes is essential when dealing with daily tasks and the lack of sleep that comes with daily operations. The ability to communicate and work as a team is also essential when executing the mission. In my opinion there is no better form of training than doing sports in high school and college when preparing for a fulfilling career. All that aside, sports humble you like life does. Like in wrestling, or running, when you lose a match or a race you get back up and go again. Sports taught me how to get back up after a heavy blow.”
And sports is something that will always be a part of life for Balchikonis.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I still run almost every day even if that’s on the boat’s flight deck band and forth a hundred times. I also helped a local high school wrestling team for a while. I do plan to continue running my entire life. Hopefully squeeze a marathon one of these days.”
Being a part of the Coast Guard is special for Balchikonis.
“What I am doing now and what I am going to do is challenging,” he said. “The operations can be intense, but when you can directly impact a person’s life by saving them, or just providing humanitarian relief it positively affects you. I enjoy serving other people whether that be other Coast Guard members, or someone who needs us. I am humbled everyday by the actions of a well-functioning crew and thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it.”