CG Haiti response recognized at Women’s Leadership Symposium

The Coast Guard is well-known for being the only American military service in which no career opportunity is closed to women. Just last week, Vice Admiral Sally Brice-O’Hara became the second woman to ascend to the service’s second highest office when she assumed the duties of the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard. It is thus fitting that VADM Brice-O’Hara will deliver a keynote address as part of this year’s Women’s Leadership Symposium in Washington, D.C. LT Anastacia Thorsson brings us the following report on day one of the symposium including a special award for a Haiti earthquake responder and will cover the Vice Commandant’s speech tomorrow.

Post written by LT Anastacia Thorsson

As the number of women serving in the armed services continues to increase it is important for us to continue to strive to be outstanding leaders. Today, the Sea Service Leadership Association’s “Women’s Leadership Symposium” 2010 kicked off in Washington D.C. The 23rd WLS is focused on the theme “Leading from the Front and Into the Future”, and provides an outstanding opportunity for the women in the sea going services to network with their peers.

The symposium provides female service members an invaluable networking opportunity on topics including career opportunities, education, balancing family with a career, emerging missions and more. Participants arrive expecting two days of open and frank conversation, as well as the chance to build a network to help them navigate their options as they move forward in their careers.

CGC Tahoma’s small boat operating in Haiti during the earthquake response. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandyn Hill)

The humanitarian work of the sea services was one of the first topics for discussion today and the room was packed for the “Global Force for Good Panel”. Representing the Coast Guard on the panel was YN1 Stephenie Winslow from the USCGC Tahoma. When the Tahoma responded to the earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti, Winslow was an instrumental member of the security contingent, coordinating efforts with the United Nations Sri Lankan Army, the Haitian coast guard, and the crew of the USCGC Mohawk.

Acting as the second in charge for Security Forces Coast Guard, Winslow saw firsthand the devastation facing the people of Haiti and the incredible efforts of the first responders. During the panel many of the questions she answered were not specific to being a female in the service, but instead about what the biggest challenges and triumphs were for the Coast Guard. Questions to which she made it very clear, the Coast Guard is an agency that is made up of humanitarians and every person we can help is a triumph.

“Each day it was a challenge to figure out how can we make this better. It was chaos, but day two it was what can we do tomorrow to make it better,” Winslow explained “ So that was a success also, because each day it got better and better.”

YN1 Stephenie Winslow is presented the Master Chief Faurie Award by RADM Cari Thomas. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Victoria Bonk)

On the topic of being a female during the response in Haiti, she explained to the audience that she was the only female on a four member security team and that it did present some challenges. Specifically that her male counterparts in the Haitian coast guard and the Sri Lankan Army had difficulty communicating with her and would often overlook her in favor of speaking to her male counter parts. She went on to explain that she maintained her professional presence and over time they became accustomed to working with her and to respect her.

YN1 Winslow was honored at the Symposium with the MCPO Faurie Leadership Award, for her outstanding achievements, her initiative and creative leadership as a petty officer in the Coast Guard, including her work in Haiti.

“I would go overseas and help out again in a heartbeat,” Winslow told the audience.

YN1 Winslow was not the only Coast Guard member recognized for outstanding leadership. Lt.Cdr. Elizabeth Booker was presented the Capt. Stratton Leadership Award, for her service as the Senior Aviation Assignment Officer at the Coast Guard Personnel Service Center. In addition to her duties managing the careers for approximately 1,200 officers, she organized the Women in Aviation Conference, created resources for women aviators, and worked on the unofficial “Mom Book”, a book about pregnancy and aviation.

Tomorrow, each sea service is scheduled to have a break out session, giving participants a chance to meet with peers from their own service and talk about issues that are particular to them. Vice Admiral Brice-O’Hara, the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker for the day and Coast Guard attendees are looking forward to hearing her unique perspective on the role of women in the service, as well as her thoughts on the roles of women in the Coast Guard as we move into the future.

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