OCBP Alumni Of The Week, Mike Gnall, Preparing For Tougher Times Ahead

OCBP Alumni Of The Week, Mike Gnall, Preparing For Tougher Times Ahead

(Editor’s Note: The following is a series on the men and women who have spent their summers protecting all those who came to Ocean City for fun and safe vacation.)

OCEAN CITY — To those who knew him well, Mike Gnall was the kind of guy you could depend on, no matter how tough the situation. Everyone who joins the Ocean City Beach Patrol aspires to this sort of recognition. Mike was one of the few who lived it every day.

As a product of DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md., Mike had learned early on the value of hard work and discipline. During those years he had a goal in mind, and that was to serve in the US military. And so, after he graduated in 1978, he applied and was accepted into the Virginia Military Institute. It was during this time, when summer breaks from his rigorous schedule allowed him the opportunity, that he decided to try his hand at another adventure: joining the beach patrol.

Mike found a place to live in the north end of Ocean City, and had soon signed up as a guard in neighboring Fenwick Island, Del. The pace was easy, which didn’t quite agree with a guy who was used to working hard and under pressure. Mike had some friends on the OCBP anyway, and decided to move to the “big leagues.” It was the summer of 1980, and he got just the kind of action he was looking for guarding the Ocean City Inlet and protecting the thousands who flocked there daily.

Over the next four summers, Mike moved steadily north until finally becoming a “condo commando,” where he guarded the densely packed beaches in front of Ocean City’s largest high rises. During that time, Mike was recognized by his crew chief and fellow guards as the guy who just wouldn’t quit. If you were having a rough day, you knew that you could count on Mike to have your back. “One particularly hot day in July the rip tides were creating havoc. I must have had about 10 pulls (rescues) that day,” he recalled. And when he wasn’t helping his fellow guards in rescues, he was helping them to win competitions. He said, “The lifeguard olympics were a blast.”

That summer on the condos would be his last. It was 1984 and Mike knew his future was going to be elsewhere. He had joined the U.S. Air Force and soon began his 28-year career as an Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) and a Combat Systems Officer (CSO), flying missions around the world. Still, Mike looks back on his time on the beach patrol with pride and fondness. He recalled, “Being a part of the OCBP and living in Ocean City were some of the best times of my life. The OCBP reminds me of every flying squadron I’ve been in during my years with the Air Force. That teamwork, camaraderie, sense of service and purpose really prepared me for some of the ‘tougher’ times I would experience in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Mike Gnall retired from the USAF and now lives with his wife on the Gulf Coast of Florida. However, he still wants to “make it back to Ocean City, it’s been far too long.”