As a Coastie, I have traveled the States for the past 20 years going from coast to coast and one amazing adventure to another.
Read on in this blog to hear stories about my experiences living the Coast Guard life, not only as a military officer but also as a small town Midwestern girl who left home to enlist in the United States Coast Guard.
I look forward to hearing what you have to say about... My Coast Guard Career.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Official Coast Guard Blog

Check out the Coast Guard's official service-wide blog, The Coast Guard Compass, at coastguard.dodlive.mil.  I am one of the writers!

Check back here soon for a post that lists all the unit-specific or topic-specific official Coast Guard blogs...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Its That Time Again...

Well, it's that time again to relocate. I am proud to say I graduated with my masters degree and will return to the Coast Guard as a Public Affairs Officer at the headquarters office in Washington, D.C.  

Transfer season is an exciting yet somber time for me.  I have written about this before and it never gets any easier to leave the friends I have met and the comfort of familiarity to start new. The one upside to being in the CG for 15+ years and moving to a big city like D.C. is that I already have a few friends up there to help me through the transition. I look forward to reconnecting with those old friends but will be sad to say goodbye to the new ones I have made here in Georgia.   

As I return to the CG and get back into the trenches, I hope to write more posts about my adventures. Thanks to everyone who has been sending in emails with questions and concerns. I enjoy hearing from you and I hope my replies are helpful. If you have any special requests for posts, drop me a line.  

Monday, April 6, 2009

Technological Ideas

One of my professors this semester challenged us to come up with three ways to use technology to help solve problems. He instructed us to post our ideas publicly through a blog, Web site, or other technology. Here, I discuss three simple yet timesaving and helpful technological ideas to improve internal communications within the U.S. Coast Guard.

1. Use social bookmarking to share Internet sites used on the job.

Coworkers often need to access and share online resources during the course of their work. Social bookmarking sites, like http://del.icio.us, enable employees to publicly tag, organize, access and share their favorite Web sites and online resources easily with others. Instead of personnel creating individual privately held lists of Internet favorites and then sending links through e-mail to share sites, they can post their favorite links to their del.icio.us page. Coworkers can then access the links from any Internet accessible computer whether they are logged into a USCG computer or not.

This resource can be invaluable during a search and rescue case when responders and watchstanders must collaborate and communicate from various locations. It is also helpful to easily share Internet resources when training new personnel or starting a new job.

2. Use a wiki to update policies, directives, publications and manuals.

These written documents are the foundation of the USCG. Printing and keeping these documents up to date and correct requires time, money and constant maintenance. Placing the documents into an Intranet-based wiki would facilitate this maintenance. A wiki will not only make the management of the documents easier but also will permit employees out in the field to make comments and suggest updates and corrections. Although only authorized personnel would have the final approving authority over changes, this technology will open the dialogue between field and administrative personnel.

3. Use micro-blogging to record, track and monitor a collaborative conversation.

In the USCG, keeping everyone informed of an urgent, time-sensitive situation is a constant battle. When a search and rescue, pollution, homeland security or law enforcement case arises, many people need to be involved simultaneously. Using a micro-blogging tool, like http://twitter.com/, will allow multiple parties to engage in the conversation at one time.

Creating separate private Twitter accounts based on an event, situation or crisis and inviting authorized personnel to join and follow the conversation can drastically improve communications. Personnel can be invited from the USCG chain of command as well as from other external partners like state officials, local responders, and various community services. Those who are handling the case can follow the Tweets, stay abreast of the situation, and get valuable feedback from involved parties without making multiple phone and/or radio calls. Additionally, because the conversation is electronically recorded and logged, there is less repetition of messages and less risk of missing or forgetting important information. This collaborative and openly transparent dialogue will quickly connect responders, watchstanders and leadership up and down the response chain.

Further benefits of Twitter are that each user can choose how they want to be notified (i.e. via an Internet based Twitter feed, through e-mail or via cellular text message) and can easily start and stop the notifications from the Internet or from a cell phone. Additionally, each user controls his/her Twitter account and can turn the service on or off to control the amount of information received . This process will allow for flexibility (i.e. vacations, out-of-town, meetings) and increase personal accountability for notifications.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Coast Guard RSS Feeds

What does ALCGCIV, ALCGENL, ALCGOFF, ALCOAST, ALCGRSV, ALCGPERSCOM on the USCG RSS feeds mean?

This is the subject of an e-mail I recently received from a soon-to-be Coastie who is trying to stay up-to-date on the latest Coast Guard news and information by subscribing to USCG RSS feeds.

My response to this confused soul… “Welcome to the world of military acronyms!” It definitely takes a while to get used to the acronym vocabulary, but it all becomes second nature after a while.

The acronyms used in this list of RSS feeds refer to distribution groups used internally to route message traffic. In the service, an electronic messaging service allows us to easily distribute information to service members. Commonly referred to as the Coast Guard Message Service (or CGMS), it is similar to email but on a larger scale.

With that said, here are some clarifications of the distribution groups. A disclaimer - these may not be exactly correct but you at least get the point, right?

ALCGCIV – All Coast Guard Civilian employees
ALCOAST – All Coast Guard (that means the information pertains to everyone)
ALCGPERSCOM – All Coast Guard Personnel Commands (all the administrative personnel)
ALCGENL – All Coast Guard Enlisted members
ALCGRSV – All Coast Guard Reserve members
ALCGOFF – All Coast Guard Officers

I bet you can figure out the others. Good luck!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Officer Candidate School Interview

Over the years, I have helped several USCG members and civilians prepare for the OCS interview. This formal interview is conducted with USCG officers and is similar to a regular job interview. In my opinion, it will make or break a candidate’s chances of being selected. This is the only opportunity real, live USCG personnel have to see if you are a good fit for the service.

I am by no means an expert and have only gone through one interview myself, but I offer some dos and don’ts:

Don’t have a personal agenda. At this point, your OCS package should be totally complete and you're on the final stretch to being selected. The interview is not a time to ask questions about the USCG or personal issues (e.g. work hours or pay). It is a time to prove to your potential peers that you are a good candidate for the USCG.

Do be professional. Read up on job interviewing. Dress and act appropriately. If you are enlisted, wear your best dress uniform. If you are a civilian, wear a suit and dress the part by wearing well-tailored clothes and shiny dress shoes. I suggest that women wear their hair up in a professional style and that men get a tight haircut. This may seem obvious or simple, but it is very important.

Don’t go unprepared. Do research and try to think like they do. Here is a great find... a link to the actual form the board will fill out, the Officer Programs Applicant Interview Form. Also, find out what sorts of questions are asked in typical job interviews. Then, ask yourself these questions and write out formal, detailed answers. You won’t be able to bring those prepared materials into the interview with you but by writing them out and thinking about them, you will be more confident and less nervous.

Do read up. Review books on the Coast Guard Reading List and read other leadership advice found online at the USCG Office of Leadership and Development. Some of the leadership advice I use comes from reading official USCG message traffic (Internet releasable message traffic is available to civilians through an RSS feed at http://www.uscg.mil/TOP/rss.asp).

Don’t lie. Be completely honest. Don’t answer the interview board’s questions with answers you think they want to hear. They will see right through that. Sometimes, they even ask questions that are nearly impossible to answer. So, be honest, give it your best shot, and tell them you don’t think you are prepared to answer the question. But...

Do be resourceful. Think about whom you might ask for help in a real situation or where you might find the right answers. Think about those mentors, peers, manuals, and books that you can consult to help you when you need it. Tell the board where you would go to get answers.

Do be yourself. Ya, I know, so cliché. But, honestly, you just want to answer questions honestly, collectively, and using your best judgment. Use eye contact and show confidence. USCG officers have an intense amount of responsibility and the board needs to be convinced that you can seamlessly handle the pressures.

Best of luck to anyone heading into an interview. Let me know how it goes...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Very Proud Day - US Airways Flight 1549

From what we know so far, today is a very good day according to the passengers of flight 1549 and every American who travels. Every ounce of gratitude clearly goes to the pilot whose experience and good sense saved the lives of the over 150 passengers. I don't dare take away any of his heroism, but I do know that the Coast Guard and its many local, state, and federal partners prepare, train, and plan for this very type of emergency.

In my previous job as a Command Center Chief in Portland, Maine, I met with several state and local agencies to not only get to know my maritime partners but also to work to coordinate our agencies in the event of a major marine casualty. We would regularly draw up plans, practice execution of the plans, and gather feedback to improve the plans. We just never knew when the time would come that we would need to do it for real.

Well, looks like NYC got the chance to put those plans and practices into action today. As I watched the whole thing go down on CNN, I just prayed and prayed for the passengers and the rescuers. From experience, I knew the Coast Guard and other marine responders knew what to do, but I had never watched it actually happen in real life. All the simulation in the world will never compare to the real thing.

The events of today and flight 1549 made me very proud of my country, the heroism, and the teamwork. I have so much pride for the many agencies, people, and community citizens I have worked with in my career. In my eyes, it is a team that knows no individual.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

15-year Anniversary

Today is my 15-year anniversary in the Coast Guard! I can hardly believe it. As I reflect on my career, I am so proud and honored to be a part of such a great organization.

To think, I originally joined expecting to complete a four year enlistment and then return to Omaha and finish my degree. I would have never guessed that I would still be on active duty, have finished both an undergraduate and graduate degree, and been promoted to an officer. Sure, I have had my ups and downs just like any career but overall the opportunities, experiences, and people have been a real blessing to my life.