Over the summer, the Coast Guard Recruiting Command partnered with Buzzfeed on a photo essay that highlighted 10 women in the Coast Guard. The article, “10 Pieces of Advice from Badass Women of the Coast Guard,” featured three reservists: Petty Officer 3rd Class Brittny Thompson, Petty Officer 2nd Class Chrissie Edwards and Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Sprout.
Apart from Thompson’s Type III uniform, the women blend in with their active duty shipmates. Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen and his team at CGRC’s marketing division worked to identify operational and support ratings, active and reserve members and, among the reservists, members of the blue guard (sectors and stations) and green guard (port security units and coriverons).
“I wanted to get as much of a broad-spectrum representation as possible,” said Ameen. “My main job is like a producer; I scour the service, looking for the right people to place into our advertisements. That’s the benefit of being a PA [public affairs specialist]. You develop a network.”
Many people remember the late-night television and radio commercials of the mid-1990s and 2000s, but as technology changed, so did CGRC’s approach to finding the Coast Guard’s newest recruits.
“The principles of recruiting don’t change, but the platforms do,” said Ameen. “Every single job in the Coast Guard is open to everyone, and we’re getting that message to the people via the platforms they’re already on. We’re on Instagram doing Instagram stories. We have the chat program—if potential applicants have a question, they can instantly talk with a recruiter. It’s a full-time social effort.”
Thompson, Edwards and Sprout gave great leadership advice in each of their quotes, and based on their contributions to the Coast Guard’s missions, it’s no surprise that they were chosen to represent the best of the service.
Melissa Sprout - MST1, Sector Incident Management Division, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Like so many of her shipmates, Melissa Sprout was at work when she got a call from a friend who was in the Coast Guard.
She’d just graduated from college and was working in her hometown of St. Petersburg, doing environmental contract work, literally saving endangered sea turtles and safely rehoming them.
It wasn’t enough work to keep her employed full time, though, and she was excited when her friend told her to check out the Coast Guard; he’d heard they had a similar career path. “He said, ‘You should go MST [marine science technician], you’re already doing the same kind of work.”
Sure enough, Sprout found she loved it—both the Coast Guard and her work as an MST.
“I was still doing work for the environment, helping protect the environment, but in pollution response.”
Among her coworkers, she became notorious for pushing her shipmates to further their education, inspiring them to sign up for college classes and helping them navigate the Coast Guard’s tuition assistance system.
“It really inspired me when I could inspire people to sign up,” said Sprout.
After tours in busy Louisiana and environmentally-friendly California, she and her husband decided to start a family. Sprout couldn’t quite leave the service.
“I didn’t want to get out-out, so I just kind of switched over to the Reserve,” she said, “I really like the camaraderie of the Coast Guard; it’s like a family, everyone’s really close.”
Sprout came back to St. Petersburg to take a billet at the Coast Guard sector there as part of the reserve incident management division, where she serves as a pollution responder and lead petty officer for the weekends when she and her team augment the active duty IMD.
Chief Petty Officer Chad Boyd, reserve chief for the IMD shop said Sprout is a “bright light” to the shop.
“She has a busy civilian job and a young family—she’s an active and engaged person, all the time, and she brings that level of engagement to our team,” said Boyd. “Like when she received her FOSCR [federal on scene coordinator representative] qualification, that’s tough for a reservist; you have to spend lots of time outside the weekend studying and come in occasionally during the week to earn that qualification.”
Four years and two daughters later, Sprout is headed in a different direction. In her quote for the Buzzfeed article, she said, “You are truly in control of your future.” Now she’s helping other young people with their futures—much younger people.
“I finish my masters in counseling in May,” she said, noting that she’ll be focused on elementary school counseling. She interns two days a week at her local elementary school, and the other three, she spends time with her daughters and teaches kids’ yoga on the beach.
Boyd summed up Sprout’s level of dedication, both to the Coast Guard and as a civilian.
“She goes above and beyond to be the expert in her field.”