Scott Brown shares of experiences in U.S. Coast Guard

2019-09-19 Whistle Stop

By Morgan Bryce

A memorable, successful 28-year career in the U.S. Coast Guard started with a simple dinnertime conversation for Opelika small-business owner Scott Brown.
Born and raised in Mobile, Brown was the youngest of five siblings and fresh out of high school in 1983. That summer, he started working part-time at a nearby Winn-Dixie, stocking shelves in advance of its grand opening.
Hours were plentiful at first, but decreased for Brown and other stockers after the store opened. Following a long shift one November evening, he was home having dinner with his family when his father Buford made a suggestion about his future plans.
“Out of nowhere, he just looks at me and says, ‘Son, I think we’re going to talk to some recruiters tomorrow.’ I just looked at my mom, and she gave me a look implying to not worry about it,” Brown said. “I just told him, ‘okay Pop, sounds good.’”
The next morning, the father and son traveled to meet with Coast Guard recruiters, which Brown noted was at the urging of his uncle Bill, who was both a Navy veteran and former airline pilot.
Facing the possibility of waiting eight months to an entire year to take a path to active duty, Brown recalled the recruiter’s suggestion to enlist with the Reserves.
Three weeks later, Brown was shipped off for basic training in Cape May, New Jersey, where he got his first taste of the northern winters and military lifestyle.
“It was a really brutally cold winter up there. It was interesting because there was not a lot of outdoor time … we spent a lot of time in the pool, classroom and gym, but about the only time we went outside was for our morning march … and all I can remember was feeling like I was going to freeze to death,” Brown said.
From February to April 1984, he went to Yorktown, Virginia for port security training, only available for Reserve members. There, he received training in fire prevention and maritime law enforcement.
In July, Brown was promoted to active duty and accepted a position at a small boat station in Destin, Florida. During the next year, he would serve on several search-and-rescue missions, working on the bows of the boat looking for people displaced by storms or shipwrecks.
Knowing he wanted to be in the air, Brown’s next stop was aviation electronics school in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, where he attended for the next eight months. Assigned to a now-decommissioned,fixed-wing aircraft following his training, he manned the plane’s radar system.
In 1986, Brown returned home to Mobile, where he remained for the next three years, where he both flew and helped conduct enlisted air crew training courses through several week-long training sessions.
The next major step in Brown’s career was attending Capitol College in Washington D.C., which is now known as Capitol Technology University, studying and receiving a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering.
Graduating in 1998, Brown returned to Mobile and was promoted from an E-6 and commissioned as a chief warrant officer 2 (more commonly known as a CWO-2), which he described as the bridge role between “being an enlisted member and an officer.” He was relocated and stationed at the Coast Guard’s headquarters in Washington D.C.
One year later, Brown would receive another promotion, this time accepting a direct commission role as a lieutenant within the Coast Guard’s C4IT program that was focused on modernizing World War II era vacuum-tube navigation equipment to solid state.
“This is where my trajectory changed,” Brown said. “I went from aviation in the first half of my Coast Guard career to being C4IT focused in the second half of it.”
In 2005, Brown completed a master’s degree in technical management from Johns Hopkins University. Before retiring from active duty in 2011 as a lieutenant commander, he helped oversee the modernization of the Coast Guard’s maritime communication and rescue system and worked the last two years of his career at the branch’s technology service center in Alexandria, Virginia.
“Looking back on it, I would say I definitely didn’t have a traditional or exciting military career, but I had a blast,” Brown said. “Most people, including myself would say the best part about service was about the camaraderie of it, the people you served with. It’s like being part of a brotherhood which is still hard for me to explain to this day.”
Since his retirement and present day, Brown remains active with the Coast Guard through a part-time consulting role.
Two years ago, Brown and his wife Julie relocated from Maryland to the Auburn-Opelika area.
A home-brewing enthusiast, Brown joined the Auburn University Brew Club.
Observing the area’s lack of a nearby home-brewing and wine-making supply store, Brown set out to open his own business to fill that need, with the Observer being first to share his story in April.
Acquiring two vacant spaces on North Railroad Avenue between La Cantina and Smith T Hardware in January, Brown transformed the building and held a grand opening for the store in June.
Whistle Stop’s inventory provides most, if not all, of the necessary materials and equipment needed for individuals wanting to create their own craft beers or homemade wines. The space can be rented out for parties or special occasions.
Through a classroom in the back of the building, Brown, along with other local brewing or wine-making experts, leads beginner classes for individuals or groups.
With Whistle Stop being located near Opelika’s developing night-life scene on First Avenue, Brown said he has enjoyed cultivating a relationship with the owners of the two nearby breweries and distillery.
“I’ll have people walk down here (from one of those establishments) and tell me they were told to check me out. I get a lot of referrals,” Brown said. “It’s great having them as neighbors.”
In the future, Brown said he plans to expand into the neighboring space and create a tap room with 12 craft beers on tap. It will offer growler fills on and off-premise, and he plans to have enough inventory for customers to mix and match their own six packs.
For more information about the shop or its classes offered, call Brown at 334-748-9727, like and follow the shop’s social media pages, or visit The store’s hours are noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. on Friday, either 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 4 p.m. on Saturday and it is always closed on Sunday and Monday.


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