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From the Editor:
At the end of summer, I got a call from my friend Cmdr. Todd Remusat, the commanding officer of Port Security Unit 309 out of Port Clinton, Ohio. He let me know the PSU was doing their two weeks of active duty in a real-world way that was a little on the robust side. I was invited to jump in for a few days if wanted to come check it out.
“All you have to do is get yourself to St. Louis airport,” he said. “I’ll take care of the rest.”
Once at the exercise site in Missouri, I unpacked my stuff in a PSU tent (those double-zipper doors were the bane of my existence!) and started talking to as many people as I could.
I don’t want to tell you too much about the exercise yet since it’s the feature in the next issue but suffice it to say… these guys work hard, and this exercise tested everyone’s skills in a dynamic way.
I didn’t realize how much I needed this trip. As the editor of this magazine, I’ve been reading and writing about PSUs for years, but it was all black and white. When I spent time with PSU 309 in September, it was like color washed into my mental picture.
Until you’ve met these people, heard their stories, lived where they live, watched how they train, seen their level of intensity… you really know nothing of PSU life.
The job they do is one thing, but the camaraderie in this unit is unlike any other unit I’ve ever been to or been stationed at. This was a family looking out for each other and working together to get the mission done.
I guess I’ve always known the PSU community was out there, but now I can appreciate what makes it so special. Now I understand why most people who get stationed at a PSU never want to leave.
So, to the crew of 309, thanks for including me and making me feel part of your unit for a few days. You take seriously the mission and your training, and as any coach knows, you play how you practice.
You guys practice hard, and I’m looking forward to doing that story justice in the next issue.
Anastasia Devlin, Editor-in-Chief
Click cover image to download a printable.pdf
From the Editor
When I sat down to write my column, no other topic was more important than this one. As a woman in uniform, it brings me unbelievable joy to know our new commandant is Adm. Linda Fagan. She entered the Academy a year after the first 13 female Coast Guard officers were commissioned, so her career is a study in the progress of active duty women in the Coast Guard.
For perspective, I’m going to tell a story from one of our enlisted sisters who joined the Coast Guard in the ‘70s or very early ‘80s. I interviewed this woman for the uniform issue we did in 2019, and I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember her name, but I remember her story. She told me about how there were so few women in the service that they all knew each other by name. The Coast Guard was so new to having females in its ranks that she had to sew her own combination cover from a pattern issued by Headquarters.
It’s weird just typing that.
It’s so odd to think that the Coast Guard didn’t always look like it does today. I can’t let the moment pass unmarked.
Fast forward about 20 years, where, at my first station, I was one of two women in the crew. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but when I look back today, the dearth of women seems strange. The following year, in 2000, I was the driver for the First District admiral, and I remember bringing Rear Adm. Vivien Crea, then a new one-star admiral, to Group Boston for a meeting. As I waited by the car for her, I saw the exchange staff come out, their eyes searching the parking lot. Excitedly, they asked if I knew when she would be back—they’d heard there was a female admiral coming, and they just wanted to see what one looked like.
Don’t get me wrong, the path hasn’t been easy. No doubt that being a girl in a mostly-boys club can be tough sometimes. It’s not worth dwelling on it, but I’ll let Master Chief Petty Officer Diane Bucci, the Coast Guard’s first female officer-in-charge afloat (1988!), sum it up. She said, “There will be times when you just want to clear your desk, clean out your locker, and walk out. It takes a lot of determination to stick it out. Say to yourself,
‘I belong here.’
Yep. Like so many master chiefs who raised this Coast Guard, Master Chief Bucci speaks with incredible strength, grace and wisdom.
Many women paved the way for us to follow, and they were supported by strong leaders like Adm. Owen Siler and Adm. James Gracey.
So now, we skip to the present. Chris and I recently revised the masthead, which you can see to the left. For the first time ever, our chain of command at the magazine is entirely female, all the way up to our new Assistant Commandant for Reserve, Rear Adm. Miriam Lafferty, who attended the Coast Guard Academy and graduated class of ‘93.
The trend of great female leaders continues; this summer, 43% of the cadets who entered the CGA were female, the highest percentage of any of the service academies.
It’s impossible to put into words how far we’ve come as a service. There’s always further to go, I know, but the occasion must be appreciated.
I love being in the Coast Guard, but I never forget that my service was only possible because so many great women, all the way back to our beloved SPARS, laid the groundwork.
At the change of command, our 26th commandant, Adm. Karl Schultz, quoted writer R.J. Heller, saying, “We are, because they were.” At the time, he was speaking about the service of those who came before us, but for me, there are two meanings. Maybe one day, the appreciation will fade, because females in uniform will become commonplace. Until then, it’s important to stop and note how far we’ve come in these 45 short years.
Congratulations to both Adm. Fagan and Rear Adm. Lafferty as they take command. Thank you, Admirals, for leading the way, in so many ways.
Well, that's another wild year in the books! And from start to finish, 2021 really gave 2020 a run for its money, didn't it? When we saw the light at the end of the tunnel around June-ish it turned out that light was the combined freight train of the delta and omicron variants, which exacerbated and already complicated problem.
Good grief, Charlie Brown.
You know, I’m trying to channel enough grace to write good things in this column, but it’s been another tough year. If we looked (and goodness knows we don’t have to look hard), we could each find many things to complain about. It’s hard to be grateful. It takes strength to be thankful.
It helps to start small. My family has a nightly dinner conversation where we ask each other, “What was the high of your day?” The rules are that it can’t mention work (for the adults) or video games (for kids). Sometimes the high is that we had nachos for dinner, but that’s still a high! This little bit of shared gratitude can have a pretty uplifting effect.
In that same vein, one of my favorite stories in this issue is called The Long Walk (found on page 22). It’s an example of taking time to be away—to appreciate what we have. The subject of the story, Tom Cowan, a friend of mine, recently hiked the Appalachian Trail after retiring from twin military and civilian careers. I met him late in his career, so I didn’t realize what a legend he was until his retirement. Turns out that at many units he’s served at, Tom’s been that stolid member of the command that put everyone else first, led quietly by example, and guided others by teaching them to help themselves. At his retirement ceremony, someone called him “a chief’s chief,” and it was a fitting description. (I remember marveling at how many hashmarks lined his sleeve—it was a LOT of gold.) When we talked during the interview, his rich, gravelly voice still conjured that feel of having a heart-to-heart over coffee with the command master chief.
It was cathartic hearing him describe the simplicity of the trail, the absence of technology, and how friendship came fast (in Tom’s words) “just knowing you’re with people who are struggling in the same way.”
It’s crazy to think we’re looking at 2022, while wondering simultaneously why we’re still in the suck. Patience is hard to come by, but we’re all struggling in the same way right now. Some of us more than others, granted, because the holidays can be dark, especially if you lost a loved one. If it’s been a rough year, reach out to your chief, your friend, your family. Ask about the high of the day. Share a sadness.
If you don’t feel like you can open up to them yet, it’s good to keep CG SUPRT’s number handy (855-CGSUPRT [247-8778]), just in case.
The people we need to talk to, they’re out there.
And that’s a two-way street, by the way. Don’t forget to share a cup of coffee with others BEFORE they appear to be struggling. It opens that line of communication that needs to be established for when things get hairy. We’re Coast Guardsmen, which means we’re usually taking on more than we can handle, and covering our stress well. And like the tale of the boiling frog, we may not realize we’re at the point of no return until it’s too late.
This is a small Coast Guard, and we need all of you, you high-performing go-getters!
Take care of each other, and see you next year.