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.

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.