Strength through Diversity – Learning from each other

Lt. j.g. Stephanie Young contributed to the post.

Diversity, mentorship and leadership were topics of much discussion during the first Association of Naval Services Officers (ANSO) and National Naval Officers Association (NNOA) joint Professional Development and Training Symposium this week.

Coast Guard, Navy and Marine Corps members gathered in Portsmouth, VA., to learn from, network with, and mentor one another, as well as conduct professional development training.

Helping the Coast Guard retain and grow a diverse workforce means different things to different people. During the conference, three Coast Guardsmen were interviewed to capture their thoughts and experiences. Two themes resonated during these interviews – supporting each other with mentorship and the value of a diverse workforce.

Lt. Cmdr. Pride Sanders during his interview.

Lt. Cmdr. Pride Sanders

Mentorship was instrumental early on in his career.

“It was the first year of my command on my ship and I didn’t realize how important that mentor would become,” he said. “It was somebody I could relate to, to get feedback from, who had been in some of the same type of situations.”

For Sanders, recruiting efforts are a personal endeavor. Throughout his career, he has consistently worked to spread the word about opportunities in the Coast Guard. As a Coast Guard Ambassador for the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI) program, he travels to colleges around the country to share his experiences and increase awareness of the Coast Guard.

Lt. Eric Wilson during his interview.

Lt. Eric Wilson

For some, finding a mentor came naturally either through a boss, friend or coworker. For Wilson, mentoring came by sheer determination.

“I learned then that you have to go after the people you want to be and ask them about how they got there and what it is that you need to do to align yourself with the service’s needs,” he said.

Wilson also uses his Coast Guard story to support his dedication to recruiting, and he encourages others to do the same.

“I am very passionate about my job,” he said. “It’s not about the money or what I get paid. It is about the smile on my face and enjoying my American dream and I want to share that with everyone who might not know about that opportunity.”

Lt. j.g. Crystal Smith during her interview.

Lt. j.g. Crystal Smith

Smith told us how important her mentors are to keeping her on track.

“No one is going to stay on the right path all the time,” she said. “It’s just about them pulling you back and having someone there to get you back on track.”

“They are there for me and care about my success not just about my career but about my personal life. And it just lets me know that someone cares and sometimes that’s all you need,” said Smith.

When it comes to recruiting, Smith takes a more direct approach when she tells her Coast Guard story.

“I love what I do and I love the people that are surrounding me,” she said. “If anyone asks, I will tell them and if anyone doesn’t ask, I will tell them.”

While Lt. Cmdr. Pride Sanders, Lt. Eric Wilson and Lt. j.g. Crystal Smith are just three of the roughly 250 members Coast Guard members that participated in the conference, we are all shipmates and we all have a role in retaining and building a diverse workforce.

In a separate blog post, Adm. Papp expressed his commitment “to working to ensure that the Coast Guard is the service of choice for all Americans – that there is unfettered access for all who wish to join our ranks.”

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