Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty: CWO Jason Briggs

Chief Warrant Officer Jason Briggs works as a member of the  Engineering Division's Maintenance Branch at Training Center Petaluma. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Chief Warrant Officer Jason Briggs works as a member of the Engineering Division’s Maintenance Branch at Training Center Petaluma. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Written by Megan Just

The mission of Training Center Petaluma is to provide basic and advanced career training courses for seven of the Coast Guard’s ratings. Easily forgotten on a base dedicated to training are the support divisions, including facilities engineering. However, when a student is disenrolled from a school whether for medical or disciplinary reasons, they usually transfer to the Engineering Division.

While their classmates move on with their Coast Guard careers, the disenrolled student remains behind and awaits administrative action. This uncertain time can be quite lengthy and could easily be a negative, unproductive experience for both the student and the Coast Guard. But it’s not, thanks to Material Maintenance Chief Warrant Officer Jason Briggs.

Briggs welcomes these members, as well as troubled permanent party members, into the Engineering Division’s Maintenance Branch, where his branch gains much-needed manpower, and the individual has the opportunity to rediscover a sense of purpose inside a supportive, hardworking community.

“Instead of casting them aside as bad apples, Jason is there to support fellow Coast Guardsmen when they need it most,” said LCDR Dana Woodall, the assistant facilities engineer at Training Center Petaluma and Briggs’s immediate supervisor.

“In one unusual case, a student self-disenrolled from A-School because he realized he wasn’t interested in the rating and wasn’t even sure if he wanted to stay in the Coast Guard,” Woodall said. “Jason set up several job shadows with other ratings, but in the end, [the student] preferred working in engineering the best.”

Briggs arranged for the student to go on a five-week deployment on a Coast Guard cutter. When the student returned and was still passionate about the damage control rating, Briggs rushed an application package that enabled the student to become one of the last strikers in the now-ended damage control striker program.

“[The fireman] is now capable, confident and excited about his future in the Coast Guard,” Woodall said. “By the time he received permanent orders to a buoy tender, he had learned so much that he was answering plumbing and carpentry work orders on his own.”

CWO Jason Briggs receives the Capt. John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership award in a recent ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

CWO Jason Briggs received the Capt. John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership award in a recent ceremony. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Briggs’s mentorship of troubled or confused personnel is just one of the many qualities that resulted in his selection for this year’s active duty Capt. John G. Witherspoon Inspirational Leadership Award. Rear Adm. Scott Buschman, commander of Force Readiness Command, presented the award to him in a recent ceremony at Training Center Petaluma.

Captain Witherspoon was the second African-American to command a Coast Guard cutter and the first African American to command a shore unit. The Coast Guard Office of Leadership describes Witherspoon as “… a kind, outgoing, generous, caring, down-to-earth, soft-spoken man who gently touched the lives of many, yet left a strong, lasting impression on everyone who knew him.”

Briggs is energetic and vibrant to Captain Witherspoon’s soft-spokeness, but he is down to earth and he has touched the lives of many throughout his 22-year career in the Coast Guard.

The work of Briggs’s facilities maintenance branch happens largely behind the scenes, but it is crucial to mission support, especially on a base like Training Center Petaluma where portions of the infrastructure dates back to World War II. The never-ending workload and maintenance crises, combined with the thankless nature of the job, is a foolproof recipe for inter-branch strife, but at Training Center Petaluma, Briggs’s upbeat, innovative leadership tempers that dynamic.

Inside his 23-person branch, Briggs has partnered experienced trade-qualified carpenters, electricians, plumbers and mechanics with damage controlmen, machinery technicians and electrician’s mates to create a true “one team” of Coast Guard civilians and bluesuiters. Last year, he had the vision to transform the branch organization from a 1:20 supervisor-to-worker structure into two teams with a leadership ratio of 1:10, which gave new opportunities for personnel to take ownership and lead work groups.

“Jason is the type of person who leadership classes teach others to be like,” Woodall said. “He’s a hands-on mentor, but a hands-off leader. He is engaged and empowering but never a micromanager even though he is a technical expert himself. He is setting such a great example for our whole workforce.”

Training Center Petaluma provided basic and advanced training to seven of the Coast Guard's ratings. U. S. Coast Guard image.

Training Center Petaluma provided basic and advanced training to seven of the Coast Guard’s ratings. U. S. Coast Guard image.

Briggs extends his mentorship and support role to his subordinates, helping them solve financial, work-life and personal problems at home and connecting them with available resources.

“His actions have helped several members get through difficult times and return to feeling like valued, productive members of the division,” wrote Capt. Charles Fosse in Briggs’s Witherspoon Award nomination package.

Unsurprisingly, Briggs’s leadership influence isn’t limited to the engineering division. As a member of the training center’s Leadership and Diversity Advisory Council, Briggs helped to create a one-day orientation program for new permanent party service members and civilians.

“[The program] has enhanced military bearing at the training center, ensuring the student population is sent to the fleet prepared and professional,” Fosse wrote.

Not only is Briggs familiar to the permanent staff of all divisions at the training center, his approachable and caring demeanor has made him an advocate for the 127 Coast Guard families living in base housing. This relationship has empowered residents to have a strong sense of ownership and their frequent communication with the customer service desk has a significant impact in preventing costly and dangerous maintenance emergencies.

Briggs started his Coast Guard as a damage controlman at Coast Guard Station Fort Pierce, Florida. He was commissioned as a chief warrant officer in 2005.

His past duty stations include the Office of Safety (CG-1134) at the Coast Guard Headquarters, Civil Engineering Unit Providence, Fire and Safety Test Detachment Mobile, Marine Safety Office Savannah, Integrated Support Command Alameda, Coast Guard Cutter Dallas and Damage Control A-School.

In July, Briggs will move to Florida with his wife and three children to become the Sector St. Petersburg Facility Engineer.

Do you know someone who embodies the Coast Guard Core Values of Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty? Please submit your nominations using the “Submit Ideas” link on the right.

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