Refocused, committed, poised for mission success

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft speaks at the National Naval Officer Association Conference in Quantico, Va. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft speaks at the National Naval Officers Association Conference in Quantico, Va. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Behind the helm of a small boat, on the bridge of a cutter or at the controls of an aircraft is a skilled member of the United States Coast Guard. Whether patrolling the high seas or standing watch ashore, Coast Guard men and women are the heart of operations; their diverse talents and backgrounds enable mission success.

Mission success was on the minds of servicemembers in Quantico, Va., this week as active duty, reserve and retired members from the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration all gathered together for the annual National Naval Officers Association conference.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft talks with Ensign Sara Daniels and retired Capt. Curt Odom, director of Civilian Human Resources, Diversity and Leadership. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft talks with Ensign Sara Daniels and retired Capt. Curt Odom, director of Civilian Human Resources, Diversity and Leadership. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

United by the theme “Refocused, committed and poised for mission success,” servicemembers discussed the tie diversity has to both mission readiness and mission success.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft spoke Thursday, reinforcing how a service comprised of diverse men and women – in their talents, abilities, ideas and backgrounds – is better poised to serve and defend.

“The Coast Guard’s strength resides in its people and NNOA has been a leader for nearly a half-century in shaping the lives of hundreds of Coast Guardsmen through mentoring, professional development opportunities and fostering an inclusive environment,” said the Commandant.

Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger also spoke to conference attendees and stressed the importance of engaging to make change; engagement like that of two Coast Guard legends, Capt. Michael Healy and Dr. Olivia Hooker.

Healy, born the son of a slave, found his passion in the sea. He was the first African American to command a ship of the United States government, commanding cutters from 1877 to 1903, in the bitter Arctic. He was a selfless leader – rescuing hundreds of sailors from whaling vessels trapped in the ice.

Hooker, a living legend, was determined to enlist in the military during WWII despite national laws on racial segregation and discrimination. On March 9, 1945, Hooker was the first African-American woman to enlist in the SPAR program and now, at 99 years of age, has received countless congressional, state and local awards and recognitions for her service to country and community.

Coast Guard Vice Commandant Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger speaks at the National Naval Officer Association Conference in Quantico, Va. Photo courtesy of the National Naval Officer Association.

Coast Guard Vice Commandant Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger speaks at the National Naval Officers Association Conference in Quantico, Va. Photo courtesy of the National Naval Officer Association.

Neffenger shared their stories to inspire attendees to engage and act; hold the system accountable, ask questions and find a mentor. While the Coast Guard has recruited a more diverse workforce, through mentoring and professional development training opportunities, he noted there was still work to be done.

“The Coast Guard has made significant progress in bringing underrepresented minorities into the service, but we need to retain these leaders. This is our focus,” said Neffenger. “We are aware of our challenges, committed to improving and engaging at every level to make a difference. NNOA will continue to be critical to our success as we move forward.”

NNOA is an important partner for the Coast Guard; over the past 42 years NNOA has supported the sea services in meeting the objective of increasing minority officer representation through recruitment, retention and career development.

Both leaders committed to continuing its partnership with NNOA to further increase the diversity of the Coast Guard, enabling the service to better perform challenging maritime missions.

“I’m proud to be a member of NNOA and look forward to our continued partnership as we focus our efforts toward retaining a Coast Guard workforce that fully reflects the richness of diversity found in American society,” said the Commandant.

Refocused, committed and poised for mission success was the focus of this year’s conference theme. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Refocused, committed and poised for mission success was the focus of this year’s conference theme. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

Tags: , , , , ,